As part of Glorify’s Body Series , available on the Glorify App, we have been exploring the valuable role that the physical body has to play in our spiritual lives. Put simply, what we do in the physical can impact what happens in the spiritual. This is a foundational theological principle. In this post we’ll be looking ways to release stress at your desk as you work.
Losing Jesus at work
However, while this all sounds good in theory, it’s of no use if we don’t learn how to practise it in reality. This is especially true in the more intense or high-stakes situations of life – like our work, for example.
I used to work in Corporate Law and can testify first hand that finding space for Jesus (or anything that feels remotely spiritual) in that sort of environment is difficult. I loved the work, but it was stressful. There were long hours. It was fast-paced. Consequently, I had to concentrate and work HARD just to keep up. Being honest, Jesus was mainly reserved for a quick moment on the way into work and, sometimes, a quick (exhausted) bedtime prayer at the end of the day. The work space was essentially dead space for my spiritual life.
Perhaps you feel the same. I don’t know what your work space looks like. Maybe you work remotely. Perhaps you are in the office every day. Your work space may be a construction site or a hospital, a shop-floor or a restaurant. Whatever it is, you’ve probably realised at some point that living with a 24/7 mindfulness of Jesus (and the joy and peace that comes from His presence) in these spaces often feels challenging, if not impossible.
Finding Jesus at work
How, then, can we combat this? In particular, are there ways that we can channel our physiology to engage more fruitfully with God at work within stressful environments? We know that the presence of Jesus is the antidote to our worries and anxieties. He is the One who can give us perspective, peace and guidance. We need to learn how to practically experience that.
In Colossians 3:17, Paul encourages us that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”. Our challenge is to find enough “mind space” and peace in our work environments in order to consciously live that out.
It’s easier said than done, but we are here to help.
Three things to try
Here’s three ways you can mindfully release stress to help you be more present with God at work.
These simple practices will help you to slow down and find moments of peace. They will position you to communicate with God more effectively within your working day.
1. Moments of meditation
“I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.” Psalm 119:15
We’ve written a lot about scriptural meditation and its benefits on this blog. It’s worth browsing through articles like mindfulness and meditation for sleep a guide for christians if you are interested. However, for this post, we want to encourage you that meditation doesn’t always have to be an extended, time-consuming process in a perfectly quiet room. You can find quick moments to meditate on God at work, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Building a habit of mindful, meditative moments into your working day can have a powerful impact on your stress levels. Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You”. Meditation helps us to refocus and recalibrate our scattered minds and bring them to a place of steadfastness. It brings us back to God. And the fruit of this, Scripture tells us, is peace.
So how do you find these moments with God at work within a busy day? Here’s a quick guide:
Being intentional is key to unlocking moments of quiet that otherwise might have passed you by. At the start of your working day, consider when you might be able to carve out a few minutes. Perhaps you can go for a stroll over lunch. Maybe you have ten minutes between two meetings that you can use to pray. Whatever it is, simply go through the mental process of finding the short gaps within your day.
Once the day gets started, it will be easy to forget your best-laid plans to give yourself a moment’s peace through meditation. If you set a reminder (or three!) on your phone or in your work calendar, it’s more likely you will go through with your plan. The reminder can be as simple as “slow down!”.
Know where the safe spaces are within your work environment to get a moment of peace. It could be the canteen or the toilet. It could be right there in your office. Try to find somewhere that you won’t be distracted for 3-5 minutes.
Once you have spotted or carved out a brief moment, take a few deep breaths and ponder on a verse of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be much at all. Just something to remind you of God’s presence with you: something to give you a Godly perspective on the rest of your working day. In the past, I have found it useful to choose a verse (or two) at the beginning of the week that has been encouraging me. Then I just have it ready on my phone for the quick moments of meditation. Say a simple prayer like “God, help me”, or “God, remind me of your presence”. Allow the quick, stolen moment to refresh you. Repeat as necessary!
Doing something as simple as this a couple of times during your working day can transform your experience. It’s not that God has gone anywhere while you work. It’s just a method to remind yourself that He is with you. Why not give it a try!
2. Breathing exercises
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
Scripture consistently equates breath with life. God’s breath gives us both physical and spiritual life. This foundational principle is something that we can practically channel to help us manage better at work, especially when work feels a little…lifeless.
Breath-work, which comprises exercises that help you to intentionally regulate your breathing and focus on healthy breathing patterns, is a key to transforming our physiology in any situation (however stressful!). It is a powerful antidote to daily stress and is part of God’s created design for us.
Breathing and stress
When the body experiences stress, it activates a “fight-or-flight” physiological response in our bodies. Amongst other things, our heart rate increases and our breath shortens. When we take more breath in, however, it slices through our stress response – sending a signal to our brain that we are not in danger (which is ultimately what our body’s stress response is designed to help us respond to). As we breathe in a rhythmical way, focussing on our breath and slowing our breathing pattern, it calms us and reminds us of God’s life-giving presence.
When we are intentional with our breath, it tells our brains that we are in a calm and safe space and that it is ok to switch into “recovery” mode. Our breathing can literally help us to regain peace and find life again within our hectic working days.
Consequently, simple breathing exercises at our desks can be invaluable to improving our work-life. It’s a habit that we can develop and practise regularly. Just as with meditation, planning goes a long way. Set reminders on your phone to stop and breathe. Take a look at the Glorify Body Series videos to find examples of breath-work that you could use. You can take them into your office and use them whenever you need.
3. A desk-stretch routine
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Deskercise” is an increasingly popular activity, and so it should be. Research shows that poor posture, repetitive motion and staying in the same position can cause or worsen a whole number of health conditions. Many jobs today are not kind to our bodies. If we are to put Paul’s encouragement above into practice and honour God with our bodies (in every way), then we need to consider how mindful movements and stretch routines might help to keep us healthy, active and a testament to God’s goodness.
The good news is that you do not need to wait until you get home from work (or away from your laptop) to start your stretch routines. Moving and stretching are buildable habits (just like meditation and breath-work). You can plan, set reminders and undertake these exercises within your work environment. Even if you can’t get away from your desk to stretch out a little, there are certain things you can do right where you sit. Mindful movement is an effective way to remain present and comfortable within your working environment.
If you’re interested in developing some of these routines, you can head over to the Glorify App to explore in more detail.
Win your work day for Jesus
Of course the ideas above are not exhaustive. Hopefully, though, they give a flavour of how you can win your day for Jesus using simple physiological techniques. They are useful even when everything else seems to be going badly (your boss is mad, your train got delayed, the printer won’t print etc. etc.). Your body is a valuable tool in the fight to experience Jesus’ true peace and joy in every part of your day-to-day working life. Don’t neglect it.