The American office is an iconic place; for many, more waking time is spent there than at home — and yet few of us take the time to make the space we work in work for us. And while lots of workers are working virtually these days, there are still millions of people who come to an office every working day. And even though work can be stressful, your office needn't be. Creating a calm oasis in your immediate workspace will make your whole life healthier: here's how.

1. Declutter your immediate work area: Some people actually do find things better in a mess, but if you are constantly pushing things aside so you can find your mouse, or balancing your keyboard on your lap because there's no room on your desk, take 15 minutes to clear that stuff out. The area in front of and 6 inches to each side of your computer should be clear so that, simply, you can move comfortably. The small aggravation of not being able to move freely can really add to your mental stress. Same goes for your chair, which should be able to move in and out freely, so that you don't feel "hemmed in" to your desk or workstation. People organize their paperwork variously, and that's fine, but you should always have space to move and work.

2. Find one beautiful and/or inspiring image and hang it in your direct line of sight. Your eyes need regular breaks from whatever work you do. A photograph, simple painting, print or other image that really resonates with you should go up in your line of sight so you can take eye-strain breaks and also daydream a little (which is actually very good for productivity; better to take a mental break this way than checking Facebook obsessively). If your job is means to an end, don't forget what that end is — an image can remind you. Avoid pictures of your family, since day-to-day stresses with them can get triggered if they are your focus image. If, for example, you are working a job to provide for that family, your image could be one of a place you would like to vacation with them, or a house you would like to live in with them.

3. Bring in a plant: There are many plants that can survive and thrive in office environments. Greenery has been proven to lower blood-pressure and stress levels, as well as clean the air, and it gives you something to tend/water when you need to take a break (instead of hitting the coffee machine/snack bar again).

4. Install a sound muffler/blocker: I was always most disturbed by noise from other workers when I worked in offices. The loud phone chatter, the clattering of the Xerox machine, the squeak of others' chairs. A small desk fan can provide a layer of white noise (and a nice breeze if your office can get stuffy) or a small water feature like this one can be turned on when concentration is needed. The sound of water flowing is relaxing and meditative, and can also gently screen out other sounds.

5. Keep a large glass or bottle full of water at your desk: Sip from it all day. Dehydration can be stressful for the body, or amp up existent irritations, and it stresses the liver and kidneys, leading to feeling sluggish. We've all been there: Coffee in the morning, a juice with lunch, and all of a sudden it's 4 p.m., you feel tired, headachey and crummy, and it's because you haven't had enough water. Then you drink a couple big glasses and have to use the bathroom four times before the end of the day. If you slowly drink water all day, you will feel better and won't have to run to the bathroom so many times all at once.

My last piece of advice is take a look at your office and your life there. What are the things that are more aggravating to you, day-to-day? Is there any way you can change or modify them? Perhaps there is a simple solution to something that has been bothering you.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

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