Take a deep breath. While those four words may seem like a cliché, scientific research shows us that breathing can be one of the simplest forms of stress relief, providing benefits not just in our daily life, but also in the workplace. As the owner of Loving Heart Holistic Wellness, I have seen firsthand, in my own life and the lives of my client’s, the benefits deep breathing provides for the body and mind when it comes to relieving stress and anxiety.
First, I’d like to share a little bit of anatomical reasoning behind why breathing works to reduce stress. The Autonomic Nervous System in our body is made up of two different categories: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The SNS is known as the “fight or flight” portion of our nervous system. The SNS is where we spend most of our waking hours, especially at work. Problem solving, conflict resolution, completing tasks, all of these things are driven, in part, by the SNS. This does things like increase our heart rate and adrenaline, which ultimately increases our stress responses. The PNS is known as the “rest and digest” portion of our nervous system. The PNS supports us by balancing our mind and body into a state of calm, grounded awareness, and relaxation. It activates our relaxation response. Inside the PNS is the Vagus Nerve, which regulates our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, immune response, and certainly not least, it helps us relax so that we can stay calm in moments of stress and anxiety.
So, what does all of that anatomy talk have to do with breathing and the workplace? Well, by breathing deeply into our abdomen, we are stimulating the Vagus Nerve and inviting our Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems to align and create balance! Stimulating the Vagus Nerve, enhances and activates our relaxation response, thus providing our body and mind with the tools needed to relieve stress, fatigue, and anxiety. This is nervous system self-regulation.
Going back into the office might feel overwhelming, but by pausing to take a few deep breaths, you’re providing your body with the support it needs to stay grounded, calm, and relaxed. I invite you to try pausing the next time a stressful situation or moment arises and take a few deep breaths. Invite your breath and the awareness of your breath to be your first reaction. Notice how your body responds. As you focus on slowing down, deepening your inhale, and lengthening your exhale, notice how your mind might become quiet for those few breaths, your shoulders might rest away from your ears, and your jaw and teeth might unclench.
Your breath is one of the most powerful and simplest forms of support you have to relieve any worry, stress or anxiety about returning to the workplace. When conflicts arise, deadlines sneak up, and you get back into the routine of your daily commute, I invite you to pause and take a few deep breaths, as many times throughout the day as you need. Your body and mind will thank you.