Breathe in calm, Breathe out stress
x How to reduce stress at work thanks to conscious breathing
Figures are growing each year. A recent study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation of UK revealed that almost 75% of adults experience stress and in some case are unable to cope with it. This leads to health problems such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and even burn-out.
Too much stress to deal with
When the organism feels threatened, SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) kicks in and all senses wakes up, heart beats faster and muscles tighten. The body enters survival mode to protect itself. For a moment, you don’t feel any pain. As soon as the threat disappears, PSNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) takes spontaneously over allowing to rest and let body and brain recover. But what happens when you feel repeatedly under pressure? SNS is constantly awake and PSNS never gets turned back on, so you are not able to rest, digest and think anymore. In case of chronic stress, those functions are not properly conducted as PSNS is then deactivated, leading then to serious health problems. Plenty of techniques exist to reduce or even prevent stress. Among all the relaxation exercises, "Breathing consciously" is one of the easiest to understand and set up.
Breathe deeply to relax
Deep breathing invokes a so called "Relaxation Response", a deep state of rest that supports PSNS. This isn’t hot news. In the 70's, Cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard Medical School wrote in his book about the subject : there are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response, including breathwork but also visualization, acupuncture, massage, meditation, etc (1).
A more recent study conducted in Italy shows that deep breathing technique seems to induce an effective improvement in mood and stress both in terms of self-reported evaluations and objective parameters, such as heart rate and salivary cortisol levels (2).
The way we breathe benefits both body and mind. Conscious deep breath work has positive impacts such as:
- Decrease in stress and anxiety, improvement of mood stability;
- Greater focus, better creativity;
- Increased energy and endurance, decreased physical pain;
- Deeper connection to ourselves, greater awareness of our environment.
BOTALYS’ tips :
Here are 3 conscious breathing exercises that members of our team practice to relieve stress and tension. NB: Try to inhale through the nose, it brings 10 to 20% more oxygen to the body.
The "Bubble breathing"
Really easy in case you are a beginner! Sit down, close your eyes, bring your attention to your breathing. Use the power of visualization to create imaginary bubbles. Breathe in golden bubbles, bringing in peace and calm. Breathe out dark bubbles, taking away stress and anxiety. Repeat until you calm down.
The "Ocean breathing"
Use slight contractions in the back of you throat to recreate the sound of the waves, as if you were in front of the ocean. Begin to do it first on the exhale, through the mouth. When you feel comfortable, do it on the inhale too. When okay, do the breathing cycle through your nose, keeping the small contractions of the throat. Breathe as softly and deeply as you can till you feel released. I personally practice this technique while stuck in the traffic jam
The "Coherent breathing"
For 5 minutes, breathe deep in the belly according to a strict rhythm: inhale for 4 seconds (belly expands), exhale for 6 seconds (belly flattens). Use an app like Cardiac Coherence or Respi Relax to guide you reaching the ideal rythm of 6 respirations/minute. Every thursday, our colleague Brigitte uses this technique before conducting her group meditation (more info about meditation coming soon).
In addition to breathing exercises, here are some basic advice to prevent from stressful situations:
- Use tools like Jira or Trello to divide your projects into tasks (Agile method). It isn’t possible to predict every detail, so leave a little bit of space and time for unforeseen things.
- Fresh news: you are not God ! You can’t control everyone's job, only yours. Let it go when it comes to things you have no impact on.
- Communicate with your colleagues, there is always a person that can help when you feel overwhelmed.
- Take a small break every 2 hours, drink a cup of tea (read our article about tea-break), go outside or listen to some music.
- Obviously, eat as balanced as you can. Play sports or enjoy a yoga session in your free time.
Are you facing stress in your daily life? How are you dealing with it? Give your tips !