If there’s one word that’s become synonymous with work in the past decade, it’s stress. The Economic Times of India reports that stress rates in India are even higher than the global average, with around 89% of the Indian population admitting they are feeling stressed out.
Any guesses about the main sources of all this stress? That’s right: Work. Stresses about work topped the list for most people, joined by worry about finances.
Side Effects of Stress
The effects of long-term stress on your mental and physical health can be catastrophic. Numerous studies link high stress levels with increased risk for developing cancer, heart disease, poorer memory, and a greater number of aches and pains. The World Health Organization has even called stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century”.
One study reported that this stress had a marked impact on work performance, with employees saying stress was “responsible for errors and/or missed deadlines (21 percent), trouble getting along with co-workers/superiors (15.5 percent), missed days (14.9 percent) and lateness (14.4 percent).”
Not only can learning how to effectively manage and reduce your stress load literally help save your life, but it can also help you to function more efficiently and perform better at work – which will, in turn, lower your work-related stress levels.
We’re going to walk you through a simple breathing exercise which will help you to de-stress at work in just a few minutes.
Why breathing? Well, the US’s Harvard Medical School explains that “[o]ne of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to simply focus your attention on your breath. It’s a form of ‘entry-level’ meditation that anyone can do. You’ll notice an immediate sense of relaxation that could help protect your health over time.”
Eventually, if you practice often enough, “breath meditation can be a gateway to a broader practice of ‘mindfulness,’ in which you learn to accept and appreciate what comes in life and stop fighting your own thoughts and feelings”.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s begin.
Simple Deep Breathing Exercise
In a home practice, we recommend doing deep breathing for ten minutes at a time. During a hectic workday, however, you may not have ten minutes to spare. So, we advise taking any spare moments you can to do the following exercise, whether it’s between floors on the elevator, while washing your hands in the bathroom, or just before an important presentation.
This exercise comes from holistic health expert Dr Andrew Weil, and it’s called the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
- Begin by exhaling completely.
- Inhale slowly while counting to four in your head. Try to keep your shoulders down and focus on filling your belly.
- Hold that breath while you count to seven.
- Exhale through your mouth – Dr Weil recommends making a “whoosh”ing sound – while counting to eight.
- Repeat this exercise four times in total, twice a day – or as many times as your schedule allows!
This breathing exercise increases the amount of oxygen your body absorbs, decreases anxiety, and helps relax tense muscles.
Perhaps the best part of this breathing exercise – other than its significant benefits to your mental health, physical health, and work performance – is that you have everything you need to do it anytime, anywhere.
We often over-complicate our wellbeing. We convince ourselves that we need a meditation retreat to feel calm, or a pricey gym membership to be fit. We adopt and abandon restrictive diets, we stack our shelves with self-help books.
We forget that while it’s good to pursue wellbeing down these avenues and experiment to see what fits us best, we have everything we need to begin, right here. Our bodies, our minds and our breath.