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Pause. Breathe. Relax. (Even for just a moment.)

3 min read

Deep breathing can do many things – relax you, calm you, help you focus, relieve anxiety or tension or nervousness. It can give you a new perspective and outlook. And (with the voice of a radio announcer,) it’s absolutely free!

Have you been reading in places like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and Wired about the increase of workplace programs designed to help men and women pause, breathe, and relax? I have. There are pieces on yoga, meditation, gentle stretching, and “mindfulness” in its many incarnations – and they’re highlighting the benefits to employees and to the companies for which they work.

Many of us are “on” 24/7. Your plate is probably more full than you’d like it to be. You may run from meeting to meeting with barely a chance—literally—to catch your breath. You may look at your watch at the end of the day and say, “Where has this day gone?

Does any of this sound familiar?

It’s also possible (I’m not accusing you from this distance) that you may, as a result, be more short with your fellow employees. Perhaps you appear exasperated or annoyed if someone comes in presenting a problem that you hadn’t planned on dealing with. Maybe you don’t take the time you’d like to offer reassurance, support, and encouragement to others. Maybe time only allows you to “ping” them for things that have gone wrong. It’s possible that your faster-faster-faster style is contagious and creates an environment in which others feel they have to behave in that way, too.

Is there any chance that you could take a break RIGHT NOW, even from reading this to take a deep breath? Go ahead. I mean it.

Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing can do many things – relax you, calm you, help you focus, relieve anxiety or tension or nervousness. It can give you a new perspective and outlook. And (with the voice of a radio announcer,) it’s absolutely free!

For those of you who are out of practice, here is a brief reminder:

  • Sit or stand comfortably. Elongate your neck. If you’re standing, take a minute to bounce out any tension in your body. If you’re sitting, sit upright, both feet flat on the floor, spine erect, sitting tall.
  • Place one hand on your belly, just around your belly button.
  • Inhale through your nose, slowly, deeply, maybe to a count of 4 (or 6 or 8, depending on what’s comfortable for you).
  • Then exhale through your mouth, again slowly, as if you were blowing out through a straw, to that same count of 4 (or 6 or 8).
  • Repeat at your own pace, as it feels natural and good to you.
  • On your inhalation, see if you can notice your breath filling not only your chest cavity, but also your abdomen, as if you were inflating a balloon in your belly (hence, “belly breath”). Deflate that same balloon on your exhalation.
  • Repeat several times.
  • Take another deep breath and on your exhalation, let out an audible “sigh.” Ahhhhhhh.

How do you feel?

Are you calmer? More relaxed? More centered and balanced? More in the here and now vs. the “then” or “what’s next?”

Chade-Meng Tan (dubbed the “engineer turned mindfulness expert,” who often works with Silicon Valley developers and executives) says, “Habits are highly trainable. And habits become character.” I invite you to notice how taking a brief moment for deep breathing affects your character! What are the results you observe in yourself? In others’ response to you? What do you notice about the quality of your work?

Want more tips on how to find a moment to breathe during the work day? Learn how to take a “doorway moment.”

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