Of all the workplace stress remedies there are, breathing techniques are some of the easiest. They're free, accessible at any time, and require no supplies.
Here are some easy breathing exercises for the workplace.
Top 5 Breathing Exercises to do at Work
What Breathing Exercises Do
You may not realize it, but you're probably breathing all wrong. If you're super stressed out, you're definitely breathing wrong.
Here's what it means to breathe wrong: short shallow breaths. You'll notice you're breathing too shallowly when you tend to sigh or yawn frequently. Those are signs your body is trying to get more oxygen.
During times of stress, breath gets shallower and we tend to breathe into the top of our lungs only. Breathing exercises can help us to take full breaths that fill the lungs and allows our lungs to absorb oxygen and distribute it to our bloodstream.
Worried about feeling lightheaded?
The feeling of being lightheaded happens when oxygen and carbon dioxide are unbalanced in the system. When you're used to breathing shallowly, you may feel lightheaded when you begin trying breathing exercises. This is because your body has adapted to the lower levels of oxygen you've been feeding it, so there's an adjustment period. Listen to your body and only do these exercises to the extent they feel comfortable.
1. Synced Breathing
Follow along with this gif. Breathe in as it expands and exhale as the shapes close back in.
2. Belly Breathing
This method is helpful for calming anxiety. Just be sure to breathe slowly. By expanding the belly, you allow deeper breaths to happen, to ensure you're not just breathing into the top of your lungs.
- Rest one hand on your belly at your navel.
- As you inhale, breathe down deep and push your belly out so you feel your hand rising with your breath as it rests on your belly.
- On the exhale, allow your belly to relax.
- Repeat for 5 breaths.
3. 4x4x4 Breaths
This method crates a rhythm that can be a helpful remind to the body to take deeper breaths.
- Inhale for a count of 4.
- Hold the breath for 4.
- Then exhale to a count of 4.
- Repeat for 5-10 cycles.
You can try to increase your counts up to 7, as long as your inhale and exhale are even.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is a common breathing technique for yoga practitioners, called Nadi Shodhana. This method is said to reduce stress, enhance focus, and restore balance to the mind and body.
Alternate nostril breathing is just what is sounds like -- you alternate your inhalations and exhalations through each nostril. You'll inhale and exhale through one nostril for one full breath, while closing the other nostril; then switch to the other side. Here's how it works:
- Sit up straight in a comfortable position. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
- Slowly inhale and then exhale through the left nostril.
- At the bottom of the exhale, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, while releasing your thumb from the right nostril.
- Now inhale and exhale through the right nostril.
- Repeat for 5-10 cycles.
5. Mindfulness Breathing
This breathing practice is more closely tied to meditation than the others. Here's how it works:
- Sit up straight but not stiff, close your eyes and breathe at a normal pace.
- At then end of your exhale, count 1 to yourself.
- After the next exhale, count 2.
- Follow this pattern up to a count of 5, and then start over at 1.
- Repeat for 5 minutes or so.
Throughout the practice, try not to engage with any other thoughts that might pop up in your mind. You'll notice you're distracted when you've been breathing without counting, or when you notice you've counted past 5.
It's interesting to notice just how many random thoughts can pop up in the span of a single breath. It's important not to chastise yourself for getting caught up in your thoughts -- just come back to your breath and start counting again.