Are any of these scenes familiar?
…The kids woke up late again this morning. By the time you get them to school and fight rush hour traffic, you’ll be 20 minutes late for the meeting you’re supposed to lead…
…When you were first hired, you felt lucky to get your customer service job. But now you wonder if it’s worth it. The phones ring constantly and you hear nothing but complaints. Last week, you called in sick just to get a break…
…It’s almost time for your presentation. Top management is here and your supervisor is counting on you to make her look good. You were up all night finishing the Powerpoint. You wonder if you’ve anticipated all the possible questions…
Stress is a permanent feature of our lives, but it really seems to ramp up at work. More than two-thirds of American workers report that workplace stress is a problem.
This means we’re all spending way too much time in “fight or flight” mode. And it’s taking a toll on our bodies through weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, and heart disease. These conditions shorten our lives and lower the quality of what’s left.
There are lots of strategies for managing stress, but when stress blindsides us with no time to prepare, we don’t need strategy. We need quick, practical steps we can take NOW that work fast and can be done anywhere. When stress launches it’s next surprise attack, try one of these: breathe deeply, visualize mentally, relax progressively.
Breathing deeply could be the single most effective way to stay calm. Everyone breathes, but a lot of us breathe the wrong way–shallow, fast, and high in the chest. This kind of breathing is restrictive, it increases our anxious feelings, and it fuels our body’s negative stress reactions.
Slow, deep breathing triggers a relaxation response, calming the body and focusing the mind. It increases the amount of oxygen in our blood, raising our performance potential.
Are you breathing the right way? To find out, try this: put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen just below your rib cage. Now breathe. Which hand moves? If it’s the hand on your chest, your breathing is too shallow.
The trick is to make the hand on your abdomen move. Inhale deeply while you slowly count to five. Try to get your abdomen to expand instead of your chest. If you have trouble making it happen, try it lying on your back. With a little practice and patience, you’ll be able to shift into a deep breathing pattern automatically.
Once you learn the technique of deep breathing, you can do it anytime.