Literally, right now, at your desk.
1. Breathe yourself calm
When you feel yourself getting rattled by your mounting to-do list or your bottomless inbox, take a breather – literally. The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique is a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system, and you’ll feel the difference within a few minutes. Simply inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold it for seven, then exhale slowly through your mouth for eight. Instant calm.
2. Take a screen break
When you take a break from your work, do you immediately click over to Twitter? Or Facebook? Or your favorite blog? Step away from the screen – not only is it bad for your eyesight, but you tend to blink less when you’re staring at a screen all day, leading to dry eyes and zero energy.
Every 15 minutes, look away from your screen to focus on something in the distance – you need only do this briefly to feel the benefits. But make sure you’re also physically moving away from your desk at least every 30-60 minutes.
3. Drink a cup of coffee
Great news – coffee is now pretty conclusively good for you. One of the many, many health benefits that emerged from last year’s Harvard research was the fact that drinking four or more cups of joe a day lowered women’s risk of depression.
Now, that antidepressant effect was observed over the long-term rather than in the moment, but coffee is one of the safest and fastest mood-boosters in the world. If coffee makes you happy – and statistically, chances are it does – then fire up that French press and smile.
4. Work in 90-minute sprints
There’s a reason you spend so much time procrastinating at work. Your brain can only focus on one task for so long – specifically, for 90 minutes – before it needs a break, and if you try to fight it you’ll end up being less productive. But since the standard 9-to-5 workday requires four hours of solid work, an hour’s break and then another three hours’ work, it’s easy to lose track of this natural 90-minute cycle, which is known as the ultradian rhythm.
Use 90-minute sprints to get the most out of your workday. Set a timer for 90 minutes on your phone, and work uninterrupted for that time (except for those screen breaks!) Then, take a 20 or 30 minute break, and repeat. You’ll be happier, sharper, and more productive.
5. Get some daylight
Office workers who are exposed to natural light enjoy a much better quality of life than those relegated to artificially-lit cubes. A lunchtime walk is the best solution, but if you’re really too slammed to make it out of the office, at least get away from your desk and take a break by the largest, brightest window you can find.
6. Do five minutes of yoga at your desk
This short-and-sweet sequence, courtesy of YouTube yoga queen Adriene Mishler, will open you up and stretch out your crunched-up neck and shoulder muscles – all from the comfort of your swivel chair.
7. Eat some chocolate
Seriously. Everybody knows chocolate is great comfort food, but a Swiss study recently found that it’s a very literal stress-buster. Eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate every day for a two-week period was found to reduce the levels of stress hormones in highly stressed people. The “dark” part is important – make sure you pick a bar with at least 70% cocoa solids, and don’t take this as license to go overboard on fun size Snickers bars. Use your chocolate budget wisely.