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De-stress at your desk; Turn your office into a mini-spa to take the pressure out of the 9-5.

EXPERTS might mean well when they tell you to chill out at work and avoid getting too stressed, but it's easier said than done.

If you followed their advice and indulged in lunch-hour massages and revitalising gym sessions, the chances are you would return to an even heavier in-tray than you left behind.

Then all the anxiety you would feel at the thought of getting behind with your work would cancel out the positive effect of your so- called stress therapy.

But while it might not always be possible to leave your desk, you can still help yourself feel better by making sure the atmosphere around you is pleasant.

We've come up with a shopping list of products, gadgets and exercises that will help you chill out without leaving the office.

And if it helps reduce your stress levels, it can have a profound effect on your life.

Forty per cent of workers questioned for the business magazine Management Today claimed that their health and even their sex lives were suffering because of their work.

So take some time to relax and turn your workspace into a mini health spa - the 9-5 grind will never be quite the same again.

FRAGRANT REFRESHERS

For the ultimate treat, invest in an Office Survival Kit, pounds 20, by Crabtree & Evelyn. It promises to ease tension, revive your mind and body and encourage balance in your work.

The kit contains various goodies to cheer you up at your desk. The headache balm, with mint and basil essential oils, will ease your aching head, while the aromatic-smelling salts, with cedar, grapefruit and frankincense essential oils, will re- centre your energy. There's also lavender essential oil and a pottery diffuser to make the air around you smell sweet.

Neal's Yard Remedies has just launched a new range called Remedies To Roll, four 10ml potions, priced pounds 2.95 each, designed to be rolled directly onto the pulse points.

They contain essential oils of rosemary, lavender, grapefruit, geranium and vetiver. Call 0161- 831-7875 for mail order.

To add a little glow to your skin in the office, try Superdrug's Refreshing Toning Spritz, priced pounds 2.75 for 150ml. It contains a cooling, skin- firming mist made up of witch hazel and strawberry leaf.

The Body Shop also does an Energising Face Spritz, priced pounds 3.45. It contains peppermint to make you more alert.

To zap away the morning cobwebs, try spraying Kyusu eau de toilette, pounds 10 for 100mls, on your neck and wrists. It is part of Boots' new Dance range, which also includes a body moisturiser, priced pounds 5, in a handy plastic bottle. Both contain extracts of orange blossom and lemon.

The Body Shop's Aromatherapy Relaxing Aroma Ball, pounds 3.25, is another portable potion that will fit neatly in your desk drawer or briefcase.

Simply roll it on your temple or pulse points whenever you feel stressed to let the scent of lavender soothe and calm you.

The Dr Edward Bach Centre makes a range of specialist remedies from flower infusions.

If you're looking for a quick fix with zero effort, try Rescue - an emergency combination made from five flowers including the Star of Bethlehem.

Take four drops in a glass of water to put a spring back in your step.

To kick-start the brain, Holland & Barrett's Guarana, pounds 6.99 for 90 capsules, is a fast-acting pick-me-up solution that comes in a handy capsule form.

Originally from the South American rainforest, Guarana is revered by the Indians for its stimulating effect on the body and mind.

For something completely different, try Noni, pounds 16.99, also from Holland & Barrett.

It's an extract from a tropical fruit found in Hawaii and islands in the South Pacific. Virtually unknown in the west, Noni has a long history of use as a traditional Hawaiian folk remedy to help promote energy levels and improve general well-being.

OFFICE READING

INVEST some time in reading up on work-related stress and learning how to cope with it.

Paul Wilson's Calm At Work (pounds 7.99 Penguin) has some excellent tips for de-stressing the workplace.

Wilson suggests listening to music by "calm" composers, such as the shakuhachi grand master Riley Lee. For a sample, you can hear some on the internet - http://www.calmcentre.com

He also recommends taking a tennis ball to work. When you feel tense, take off your socks and shoes and roll the ball back and forth across the pressure points under each foot.

Pilates Through The Day - The Desk Reviver (pounds 2.99, Pan Books, call 01624- 675137 for mail order) is a miniature bible for anyone who believes this specialised method of exercising can encourage body and mind to work in harmony together.

One tip from co-author Lynne Robinson is to always keep a scarf in your desk drawer.

When you feel stressed, wrap it around your ribcage and practise breathing into the scarf.

Direct your breath into your sides and back, but keep the shoulders relaxed and the neck calm. Repeat six times. The increased oxygen to the lungs should replenish the body.

Lynne also offers an array of office-based exercises. They may not be discreet, but they are effective. See the Body Control Pilates website at http://www. bodycontrol.co.uk

For a down-to-earth, clearly-illustrated guide to relieving office tension read Instant Calm - Natural Ways To Reduce Stress (Lorenz Books, pounds 4.95).

Author Beverley Jollands describes how to perform practical, simple stretches without shifting from your office chair.

Try linking your hands together with your palms away from your body and push your arms straight out in front of you. Hold for a few seconds, relax and repeat.

Or take a leaf out of Jane Alexander's book The Detox Plan (Gaia Books, pounds 10.99) and de- clutter your desk feng shui-style.

Place a light in the top left-hand corner and buy yourself a vase to fill with fresh flowers.

Place a favourite crystal on top of your computer and put an inspirational picture on the wall. Keep a window slightly open and boost your chi energy by having a night light or aromatherapy candle burning on your desk.

Yoga At Work by Miriam Friedman and Janice Hankes (Element Books, pounds 5.99) is packed full of tips on how to improve your office environment, advice on what to eat and drink and a series of 10-15 minutes of yoga-based workouts.

It also includes sections on commuting, breathing, relaxation and meditation. For mail order, call 0870- 241-3065.

GADGETS

The old faithful Stress Ball has been brought bang up to date by Origins. These wonderfully-squishy objects, priced pounds 5 from John Lewis, are designed to be manipulated in the palm of the hand - they work a treat.

Alternatively, try the Gadget Shop's pliable Stress Keyring, pounds 1.95. Call 0800- 7838343 for mail order.

Be sensible and invest in a user-friendly and informative Mouse Mat. Data Sound make a grey or blue pad, priced pounds 12.95, fitted with a wrist rest and illustrated with eight exercises that make up a five- minute ergonomic exercise plan. Call 0181-883-6421 and ask for sales, or visit the Data Sound Internet site on http://www.datasound.com

Relieve tension in the shoulders, back and neck by stretching out with a Back2 Backnobber, pounds 19.95. It looks like a giant "S" on its side. You hold on to the front of the "S" while the back loops over your shoulder. You simply target the tense areas in your back or shoulders with the end of the device and pull down on the front to give yourself an instant massage. For mail order, call 0800-374604.

If none of our civilised suggestions appeal, perhaps you're in need of a set of six Guatemalan Worry Dolls. Remove one from the bag for each problem you have and lay them in a quiet, safe place.

While they "sleep", they will solve your woes - honest. They cost 99p each from Hawkin's Bazaar, mail order on 01986- 782-458.

And, if all else fails, try the Dartboard Picture Frame, pounds 6.95, from the Gadget Shop.

It was developed by a woman jilted by her boyfriend - but if you're discreet enough, you can put in a photo of your boss or a hated colleague and aim the mini darts provided.

And if that doesn't make you feel better, nothing will.

FOLLOWING certain thought processes will keep you calm through even the most difficult office moments.

This selection comes from Instant Calm and The Little Book Of Calm, by Paul Wilson.

1. Breathe deeply. As you breathe in, feel your lower abdomen (not your chest) swell. Slow each breath down until you are breathing about 8- 10 times a minute. Then listen to each breath coming and going.

2. Move slowly. Calm people move at a relaxed pace, speak at a relaxed pace, breathe at a relaxed pace. Consciously slow down these actions and you will become calm.

3. Relax your face. To relax the tension that gathers in the facial area, slightly raise the eyebrows (this relaxes the brow muscles), place your tongue against the roof of your mouth (the jaw muscles), then smile (the cheek muscles).

4. Massage your feet. You can access the reflexology points that help you relax by pressing your fist in the hollow of your foot. Slowly press up as you breathe out.

5. Write down your worry. It's amazing how quickly your anxieties vanish when you write them down and see them in their true perspective.

6. Listen to the quiet. If you can't imagine what "quiet" sounds like, choose a recording that will ease you into that state of mind. Tune into www.calmcentre.com on the Internet or take your favourite relaxation music to work with a Walkman or portable CD.

7. Press on your wrist. Apply a downward pressure to the acupressure point inside of your wrist - in line with your middle finger, two thumb widths from your palm - as you breathe out.

8. Walk around the office. Any exercise will help you work off stress. For most of us, walking is the most relaxing exercise of all. Do it whenever you feel tense.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Murphy, Rachael
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 18, 1999
Words:1702
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