According to the American Psychological Association, Americans’ greatest source of stress is their employment, although many other sources of stress (particularly pandemic related stress) are mentioned. High-pressure deadlines, conflict with colleagues, and an overwhelming workload can all contribute to the stress of employment.
Stress is Harmful to Your Well-being
Experiencing too much stress has a price – mentally, physically, and financially. If you regularly experience high stress levels, you also have an increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, problems with insomnia, and other maladies. Long-term exposure to stress may lead to severe issues like cardiovascular disease, back problems, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological problems.
Workers who report high levels of stress spend 50 percent more on healthcare and take more time off work. In fact, stress costs businesses over $300 billion per year in the U.S. Therefore, it’s important for the employer and employee to work at finding ways to minimize burnout and anxiety.
Using Breathing Patterns to Reduce Stress
Breathing exercises can help reduce stress and are simple to learn. There’s no special equipment required, and you can do them anytime and just about anywhere. Our breath is what oxygenates our cells and provides us with energy. Stressed-out people frequently breathe quickly and therefore take shallow breaths without realizing it. That’s why they feel anxious and tired.
Five simple breathing exercises to increase energy and mood are shown below:
1. Deep Inhalation
When we’re stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths. That means the air stays in the top third of our lungs. This is a problem since the bottom part of our lungs is what supplies most of the oxygen and nutrients to our body. As a result, people feel less alert, more tired, and experience decreased cognitive ability.
Alternatively, deep breathing promotes control and calmness while also improving focus and lowering the heart rate. Therefore, deep breathing can help workers feel more centered. It also improves posture, reduces inflammation, and helps employees feel calmer and more alert.
You’ll notice that this breathing technique is much like the method used when your doctor asks you to breathe deeply during a chest exam.
This is how you do it:
- Inhale deeply so the air fills your stomach
- Slowly exhale through your nose
- Repeat a few more times
- Inhale while placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest
- Inhale until you raise your stomach hand higher than your chest hand
2. Box (or “Square”) Breathing
Box breathing, also known as “four square” or “square breathing,” is a quick and effective relaxation method that assists in restoring a peaceful rhythm to your respiration. Your focus will increase as your thoughts become more peaceful.
Perform box breathing while you’re standing, sitting in a chair, or lying down. If you sit on a chair, firmly plant your feet on the ground and make sure your back is supported. You may want to put your hand on your stomach, as in the deep inhalation example, above.
Practice box breathing by doing these steps:
- Inhale slowly while counting to 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 4
- Exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of 4
Continue the practice for a short time. You can start out by doing 1 minute and see if you notice any positive physical feedback. Box breathing is a form of deep breathing that is quite popular with those are trying to reduce their stress.
3. The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique of Dr. Weil
Dr. Andrew Weil, who is a Harvard grad and founder of the University Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, teaches this popular breathing technique.
Here is how you do it.
- Exhale fully
- Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- Count to 7 while holding a deep breath
- Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8
You can start out by doing this as few as four times, and then increase your repetitions.
4. Breath Control with Visualization
Get rid of worried thoughts by concentrating entirely on breathing and filling your lungs completely. Perform this breathing technique, as follows:
- Take a few deep breaths
- Take a breath (for peace and goodness)
- Imagine getting rid of your tension and negative thoughts while exhaling
- Do this for several minutes
5. Similar Breath Lengths
Your goal is to increase your inhalation and exhalation counts as while employing this breathing method. Doing so will help you focus on breathing while preserving a balance inside your diaphragm. To use this method, do the following:
- Count to 5 slowly while you inhale
- Count to 5 again as you exhale
You can try this for 30 seconds at first, and experiment with elongating the count for your inhales and exhales.
The Many Benefits of Breathwork
The above breathing exercises rejuvenate your respiration so you can reduce hyperventilation and reduce anxiety. Breathing exercises improve your mood by lowering your blood pressure and reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. Use them as part of your arsenal so you can experience a less stressful workday.
Great Northern Helps Injured Workers Recover
Great Northern Therapy Associates uses telehealth every day as part of our mission to improve the lives of injured workers. We have therapists throughout many states who can meet via remotely (and in person, if preferred), to work with injured workers and develop an individualized plan to help them adjust and successfully return to work.
We have partnered with and provided mental health support to workers at some of the largest companies in the world. But, at our core, we are still “people taking care of people,” one person at a time. Contact us today by filling out a form (below), submitting a referral, or calling us at the number below.