Quick breathing exercises to help you manage stress at work

Breathing exercises can be a powerful tool for managing stress, improving focus, and enhancing overall well-being, especially in the workplace. Here are some practical breathing exercises that can be easily done at work, requiring only a few minutes and no special equipment:

Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti)

  • How to do it: Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. As you get more practised, you can extend the count to six or eight per breath, maintaining equal lengths for inhalation and exhalation.
  • Benefits: Promotes balance and calm, helps to focus the mind, and reduces stress.

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly Breathing)

  • How to do it: Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal is six to ten deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes.
  • Benefits: Reduces heart rate and blood pressure, strengthens the diaphragm, and decreases stress.

Box Breathing (Square Breathing)

  • How to do it: Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and then hold again for a count of four before beginning the next cycle.
  • Benefits: Helps to clear the mind, relax the body, improve focus, and reduce stress.

4-8-8 Breathing

  • How to do it: Empty the lungs of air. Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 8 seconds, and exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds.
  • Benefits: Helps with anxiety, falling asleep, managing cravings, and controlling or reducing stress responses.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

  • How to do it: Hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off, and exhaling through the left nostril.
  • Benefits: Enhances cardiovascular function and reduces stress, improving mental focus and mindfulness.

Pursed Lip Breathing

  • How to do it: Inhale slowly through the nose for two counts. Pucker or purse your lips as if you were going to whistle, and exhale slowly and gently through pursed lips for a count of four.
  • Benefits: Slows down the pace of breathing, making each breath more effective, and promotes relaxation.

Mindful Breathing

  • How to do it: Simply observe your natural breathing pattern without trying to change it. Pay attention to the sensation of air entering and leaving your nostrils, or the way your belly rises and falls with each breath.
  • Benefits: Increases awareness and mindfulness, helping to reduce stress and anxiety by bringing attention back to the present moment.

These exercises can be practised at your desk, during a break, or any time you feel the need to reset your focus and alleviate stress. Consistent practice can lead to long-term benefits for your health, well-being, and productivity at work.

If you are interested in learning more, please check out the NeuroMindfulness Institute.

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