Work-Life: Managing Stress with the Breath

by | Nov 5, 2013

Are you breathing at work? Ok, you’re obviously breathing. But are you savoring the most important component of your minute-to-minute existence?

Managing Stress: The Breath

As a journalist, the “breath” has gotten me through covering plane crashes, a stint in post-genocide Kosovo and the events of 9/11. And I can definitively say as a stress management consultant, it’s the most important tool I teach for managing stress, especially chronic stress in the work-life merge. Learning how to use the breath is a key technique threaded through most stress management courses.

The breath is the elixir of life. It’s also the fundamental daily transaction in your work-life that can elevate your energy when used properly. It can calm the fierce competitive waters. Breathing properly is not brain science. It's an art that can be individually crafted for your purposes.

Breathing in the C-Suite and Beyond

With employees working long hours -- their shoulders hunched over computers and checking email at lightening speed -- it's no wonder many don't take the time to breathe. Not to mention the voice in their heads telling them that taking a break, or a breath, is a bad thing for their jobs, and the company's bottom line. But deep breathing is no longer just relegated to the practice of yoga or mindful meditation. it's key to managing stress.

In general, deep breathing has become a popular topic of conversation as a key component of meditation practice. In fact, recent headlines have featured many a C-Suite giant admittedly leaning toward breathwork, mindfulness and meditation as part of daily practice. And we’re also seeing more employee assistance programs making such offerings.

Harnessing the Breath at Work

Deep breathing is scientifically known to trigger the relaxation response associated with reducing stress and helping with focus and concentration. Deepening and slowing your breath helps trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and tells the brain to release calming hormones. It creates the atmosphere from which to make better decisions. Those deep breaths allow the lungs to take in more oxygen into the blood stream, giving you a sense of wellness and balance.

Harnessing the breath, and channeling it more precisely, trains us to be mindfully aware of where we focus our attention and how we interact with our coworkers. Awareness is fostered when the breath is nurtured. Ultimately, breath provides the fuel to help us better manage stress and trigger the ignition switch for the creative impulse.

Understanding how to harness the breath is crucial in the new world of work, where getting a handle on managing stress arguably offers a competitive edge. With so much spiraling out of control, the one thing we have the ability to master, is our breath.

The breath is the gateway to the silent space within. Focusing on the breath reduces stress and bolsters resilience. It’s an activating vehicle that can bring us to a deeper place in meditation and contemplation from which innovation can emerge. Not an easy place to get to in a 24/7 high-tech global marketplace where connectivity is the law of the land in "real time."



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