Using the Breath to Manage Workplace Stress
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and we’re highlighting an issue that is really important to us – stress in the workplace.
There’s no doubt that running your own business can be stressful. We’re constantly faced with deadlines, big meetings, staff to manage, all whilst maintaining a fulfilling personal life and healthy relationships. Sometimes, it can all get a little overwhelming and in a digitally connected world, it’s hard to switch off. In fact, stress has become such a big part of our lives that the World Health Organization calls it ‘the health epidemic of the twenty-first century’.
Stress is something that has always been a topic of interest to me. As many of our regular clients may know, I’ve recently been on a month-long trip to India to train as a yoga teacher. For many years now, maintaining a regular yoga practice has been an essential part of my stress management regime, so I was keen to learn more about the philosophy behind yoga and how it can make an impact on mental health in the workplace.
So how can we learn to manage stress to prevent it from taking away the joy of running a rewarding and successful business?
I’m now a fully qualified yoga teacher and I’m so excited to teach lots of simple stress management tips and tricks to our lovely clients. I thought I’d share a simple breathing technique that you can do anywhere, anytime that you feel slightly overwhelmed:
Sit with a nice straight spine and open chest. Close your eyes if you can to avoid external distractions.
Inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath in for a count of 2, then exhale for a count of 6.
Repeat this cycle as many times as you can, preferably for at least 5 minutes. You can set a timer on your phone if that’s helpful.
That’s it! Pretty simple, but hugely effective. When you’re practicing this breathing technique, just try and make sure you breathe really deep into the abdomen and pay attention to how the belly expands with your inhale and drops with your exhale. From a sciencey point of view, anytime that your exhale is longer than your inhale your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This is your ‘rest and digest’ mode and it helps to restore your body back to a state of balance by allowing it to relax and repair.
Plus, many of us are hunched at a desk all day, meaning that the diaphragm is in a constant state of compression which prevents us from filling our lungs to their full capacity. Breathing deep into the belly really helps us to make full use of our respiration system and get oxygen to the muscles more efficiently.
This is a topic I can talk about all day! I’ve done lots of my own research into stress and mental health so if you’d like to learn a little more about it, I really recommend reading ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ by Matt Haig, and listening to the ‘Feel Better Live More’ podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.
As a studio, mental health is really important to us and we’ve put measures in place to create a work environment that is calming and promotes positivity. We feel this makes such a huge difference not only to our mental wellbeing, but as a result our productivity benefits too. It’s a win win.
We’re passionate about ensuring that our clients have fulfilling careers that they love, so we’ll be sharing lots more simple techniques that you can do to help manage stress over the next few months.