Many of us are now working from home on a regular basis and trying to multitask not only our own work commitments, projects and meetings, but also working around our usual home lives and routines which for many heightens our stress levels.
Regardless of where your team is working, even if it is remotely from the other side of the country, this doesn’t prevent you from implementing a series of simple practices within your everyday operations to help support your staff during moments of stress.
When our body responds to stress, one of the first reactions we have is our breathing usually changes to shorter, faster breathes that don’t extend down to the depths of our diaphragm. This is known as chest breathing and as your breath’s are shallower, this in turn feeds the stress response your body has entered.
That’s why the phrase “take a big breath in” is one of the most common phrases we hear when faced with a stressful situation. So why do we struggle so much with the concept of just stopping for a moment to re-focus our breathing?
We all know that stress raises our cortisol levels, resulting in a magnitude of impacts upon the human body including difficulties with emotional regulation and impaired brain activity. Essentially, the more stressed we are, the more likely it is that we will struggle within our everyday lives, tasks and work functions.
From a workplace perspective, stressed out staff may find their regular work practices and projects can suddenly seem harder, unachievable or impossible within the given timeframe. The usual mental clarity required to focus at the job at hand is clouded by the stress lens, which will continue to dominate individuals emotional regulation and focus unless the stress response is broken.
Which is where mindfulness practices play an important role.
This week’s Mindfulness May Practice is to – JUST BREATHE
The very simple act of deep breathing is a pretty miraculous healing exercise. It is involuntary for the most part and occurs naturally without us being aware. However, it is also an action we can control and regulate. Our ability to manipulate the breath makes it a valuable tool that can influence our minds and bodies and guide us towards a state of greater clarity and relaxation.
The breath is connected to the nervous system and by simply taking deep breaths in and out, we deactivate the ‘fight and flight’ or ‘stress’ response and activate the ‘rest and digest’ response of the nervous system. This immediately slows down our heart rate, brings more oxygen into our bloodstream and releases those ‘feel good’ endorphins throughout our entire body, allowing it to calm and settle, reducing anxiety and bringing us into the present moment.
This is an easy 5 minute breathing exercise you and your staff can do together prior to commencing your work day, to bring calm and relaxation to your body and team.
- Breathe in through your nose for 6 seconds. Remember to fill the abdomen, not just the chest. A simple way to make sure you are doing this is to place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds.
- Release the breath out through your mouth for 6 seconds as though you’re releasing a big sigh.
- Repeat this 6 second cycle and as you continue to breathe in, focus on your breath as you feel it entering your nostrils into your body filling you with life.
- As you breathe out, release your thoughts with the breath. Let go of the things you have to do today or projects that need your attention. Simply let your thoughts rise and fall of their own accord and be at one with your breath.
- Continue to deep breathe until you begin to feel your mind calm and your body relax.
You may like to develop your own mantra and encourage your staff to do the same, to say on the inbreath and on the outbreath, to help you focus on your breathing. For example, Accounts Manager Sue’s mantra on the inbreath is “I’m breathing in the good” and her outbreath mantra is “and letting go of the bad.
You can now go about your day knowing you can integrate this practice as often as you like any time across the day. Some smart devices (such as the Apple Watch) have inbuilt apps or programs that can remind you to check in with your breathing and help you stay on top of your breathing throughout the day.
Just Remember, no matter what situation you are faced with and your stress levels begin to rise, take a moment or two and … Just Breathe.
Where do I start?
If you want to get started on building a high performing team that are engaged and productive, you can download our Free eBook – Five Ways to Build An Unstoppable Team
Just click the link and enter your email address and we’ll send it to your inbox.
If your staff are disengaged or underperforming, you’re battling a tense work environment culture or you’re struggling with poor customer service, it’s a sign you may be dealing with an unhealthy team.