Doing this for 10 minutes a day can help fight stress

Stress at work is no secret.

The majority of Americans feel stressed at work, whether it’s by bringing outside noise into the office or dealing with a coworker who gets under their skin. If you’re struggling through a stressful workday — either at the office or remotely — it goes without saying that there may be a remedy for helping you feel more at ease to power you through the workday: through rest and relaxation.

Researchers from psychologists in Germany found that a 10-minute massage or just ten minutes of rest can boost mental and physical relaxation. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by researchers at the University of Konstanz where they investigated whether massages are able to boost physiological and psychological states of relaxation, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), something that is often under duress during the workday.

“To get a better handle on the negative effects of stress, we need to understand its opposite – relaxation,” Jens Pruessner, head of the Neuropsychology lab and Professor at the Cluster of Excellence at the University of Konstanz, said in a press release. “Relaxation therapies show great promise as a holistic way to treat stress, but more systematic scientific appraisal of these methods is needed.”

Touted as the first standardized approach for tackling mental and physical relaxation through tactile stimulation, researchers had participants take part in two different ten-minute massages. The first was a head-and-neck massage that targeted the PNS. The second area of focus was the neck and shoulders, which was targeted to see whether the soft stroking movement could stimulate relaxation strictly through touch.

Additionally, a control group received no tactile stimulation and were examined to see how rest plays a role. Participants were also asked to complete a “Social Touch Questionnaire,” which was used to assess how they felt about touch on a points scale.

Using heart-rate monitors, researchers determined that 10 minutes of rest or massage reduced stress both psychologically and physiologically. Participants from all groups said they felt more relaxed and less stressed compared to before the exercise.

“We are very encouraged by the findings that short periods of dis-engagement are enough to relax not just the mind but also the body,” said Maria Meier, a doctoral student and first author on the study. “You don’t need a professional treatment in order to relax. Having somebody gently stroke your shoulders, or even just resting your head on the table for ten minutes, is an effective way to boost your body’s physiological engine of relaxation.”

Ten minutes of relaxation during a workday isn’t a whole lot of time and can easily be incorperated into your routine. While there was a time where in-office massages were a thing, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has at least paused that employee perk. But at home, a quick breathing exercise or rest can do the trick to help stress.