Stressed at Work? Try Chocolate, Chamomile, Tennis Balls and Pencils

"We all have stressful days at work, from time to time - but with the right tools to hand we can easily reduce that stress and feel a whole lot better." Massage therapist and psychologist Esther Cato offers up the ingredients to her Office Survival Kit.

You've 256 messages in your inbox. Your boss is calling you into the office because of something you've forgotten to sign off. Your colleague is an incessant talker who can't stop yapping on about Max, a Boston Terrier, who she has just rescued from Battersea Dogs Home. As happy as you are for her, it's driving you to distraction and you just need a moment's peace to focus on your ever-evolving to-do list.

To top it all off, you've just spilt coffee down your shirt.

On any other day it might not matter, but today you have a client presentation in less than an hour. Did I mention it's only 9:15 on Monday morning?

The myth of multitasking

Sound familiar? Don't worry, even Superman and Wonder Woman had bad days. The first thing that you need to realise is that you're human, and that this myth of multitasking will only serve to make you feel inadequate. Studies actually show that multitasking is a stress inducer and that although working methodically may take longer, it means you are more thorough and less likely to make mistakes and have to check something through a million times - therefore actually saving time and keeping you in the moment. Staying in the moment means that you are focused 100% on what you need to do.

My Office Survival Kit

If your days are anything like the one described above, then maybe one of the things you need to do is to equip yourself with the tools to relax. Try this, my Office Survival Kit!

  • Chamomile tea
  • 70-100% dark chocolate / carob
  • Tennis ball
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Blue card or an underwater/blue sky scene
  • Desktop pot-plant (preferably a little shrub / mini tree)
  • A pencil

It might look like a conveyor belt of odd gifts from The Generation Game, but the items above are literally all you need to combat a dose of the office blues. 

Chamomile tea

Studies have shown that drinking chamomile tea not only lowers blood pressure, but it has a calming effect which if consumed in vast amounts can greatly relax your digestive muscles. It's a great aid to sleeping and has been known to help with anxiety. So if you're a big PG Tips drinker you may need to slow down to only two cups of this golden nectar per day.

Dark chocolate

I love chocolate, who doesn't really? In fact, I love it so much that I actually designed a massage treatment being smothered in it. I know it sounds weird, but don't knock it till you've tried it, it's divine - and great for firming skin and stimulating serotonin, the so-called 'happy chemical'. Lots of people will warn about potential downsides of eating chocolate - for example, weight gain or acne - but no one really talks about how good chocolate is for you.

Scientists (albeit researching on behalf of Nestle) have found that consuming just two small blocks of chocolate a day, over a period of a month, can greatly reduce stress levels in the human body. You just need to make sure that it's organic dark chocolate, containing 70-100% cacao (the flavonol-rich cocoa bean) dark chocolate. The best bars are packed with antioxidants, and are low in sugar, yet will satisfy your cravings. So off you go, grab some chocolate!

A tennis ball 

Really? Am I going to suggest playing tennis in the office? No, not quite. In fact, you don't need a racket for this. I use tennis balls to treat my clients - and to help them to treat themselves - by identifying and applying pressure to their trigger points when they are at home. Tennis balls are very effective in reducing areas of tension in the body.

One simple trick is to get two regular-sized tennis balls, place them on either side of your upper back just in between your shoulder blade and spine and lean against a wall. You can also roll up and down against it. Your colleagues might give you funny looks, but you will end up having the last laugh as the release of tension you get is awesome.

When you've embarrassed yourself enough, kick off your shoes, sit down and place a ball under each of your feet and roll them forward and back from your toes to your heel applying gentle pressure. This instant foot massage has many benefits including improving your circulation and is actually burning a few calories whilst you sit at your desk. It also focuses your mind on the present whilst you work on that presentation.

Lavender oil

For instant calm put a few drops of pure essential lavender oil on your wrists and inhale in gently until you feel your shoulders drop down. Lavender is a natural relaxant but again use this in moderation.

An underwater scene 

Next up, adjust your desktop space to display an aquatic/underwater scene: studies prove that when shown various visual stimuli, people of all ages prefer to look at the colour blue for the longest period of time - and really identify with underwater scenes or fluffy clouds in a blue sky.

A small plant

Put a little plant pot on your desk. Not only will you have something else to tend to besides your work but it gives you an extra boost of oxygen, and who can say no to that?

A pencil

Last but not least, keep a handy supply of pencils or pens on your desk. Whenever you start to feel stressed, depressed or moody, place a pencil in your mouth horizontally and grip it firmly between your teeth for one minute. Psychologist Richard Wiseman has identified that the upward movement of the muscles in your mouth creates an artificial smile which the brain cannot recognise as true or false. The movement sends a message to your brain to release more serotonin, and so you should get a rush of the 'happy hormone' within a minute.

That's it - my suggested ingredients and recipe. I hope it helps you to create a happier workspace for yourself.

Esther Cato is a highly-experienced massage therapist and can be contacted for corporate consultations via Linkedin or for personal treatments via Gracelands Yard