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Deep Breathing for the Workplace

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Being pulled in a zillion directions? Feeling like nothing ever gets completed?

“Take a deep breath.” We’ve heard it before. Something stressful happens to someone who then gets told to … “take a deep breath.” Somehow it begins to calm the person down. Why does that work? What goes on in our bodies to trigger a more relaxed state?

Stress Response

You’ve probably heard the phrase Fight or Flight. It came in very handy for keeping our prehistoric ancestors alive in times of crisis and does the same for us today. Chemicals get released that prepare our bodies for a major expenditure of energy.Yellowstone_Bear

  • Muscles are activated
  • Heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • Breathing rate increases
  • Perception of pain is blunted
  • Senses become sharper

All this activity is called the stress response. Our bodies have worked this way from the beginning and this biology hasn’t changed. It still works the same way today as it did thousands of years ago. (By the way, this is not always great news for modern day life.)

Relaxation Response

Once our body feels safe from the stressor our relaxation response kicks in. This is known as Rest, Digest, Repair. It’s the exact opposite of Fight, Flight and its purpose is to repair all the damage to our bodies that happened when the stress response was activated. That way we can be ready to fight or flee another day.

The Formula: Stress Response + Action = Relaxation Response

Critical Concept #1:

The stress response and relaxation response cannot work at the same time. You’re body is either producing chemicals to get you the heck out of Dodge. Or, you’re calmly eating berries and resting up for the net life threatening adventure. Physiologically, we CANNOT be in both states at the same time. That’s bad news for those under constant stress because their bodies never rest and repair, which makes them vulnerable to stress related disease.

Critical Concept #2:

Getting us to take action is what the stress response is designed to do. Once our body feels safe, it can relax. Our relaxation response bypasses the mind allowing chemicals to go straight to repairing the body. In other words, the situation doesn’t have to be resolved.

This is why deep breathing works.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is an Action and it activates the relaxation response. You can still have the stressful event. Nothing has to be solved. Deep breathing “tricks” your mind and works on your body. This is one reason meditation is so powerful and why doctors are increasingly recommending it to their patients.

Deep Breathing Exercise

Following is a breathing exercise you can do at your desk when you’re in need of feeling a sense of calm and control.

  • Sit forward so your back isn’t touching the back of your chair. Nice tall spine.
  • Place both feet on the floor and rest hands in your lap
  • Eyes closed or soft gaze down
  • Bring your awareness, your attention, to your breath. Take several breaths and notice how your breath moves your body.
  • Inhale through your nose and pause for a second after inhale
  • Exhale slowly through slightly parted lips and pause for a second after exhale
  • Continue this breathing pattern, gradually lengthening your exhale until it is about twice as long as your inhale.
  • Continue this pattern for several minutes
  • When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath with no judgment
  • When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room

Take a few moments and observe how you feel. Like anything else, the more you practice deep breathing, the more effective it will be in telling your body to relax.

Enjoy and Breathe Easy.

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Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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