We hear a lot about stress management these days. Many of us have incorporated stress management tools such as meditation, walking, or a hot bath at the end of the day. While these things are highly beneficial, we typically do them as a routine and not necessarily in the moment we are having stress. For example, if we are at work we can't just say, "I need to go meditate right now" or leave to go take a bath. However, it is important to alleviate stress in a healthy way while we are experiencing it.
Stress is a fight-or-flight response characterized by increased heart rate, increased breathing, increased blood pressure, and a 300-percent to 400-percent increase in the amount of blood flowing to our muscles, which prepares us to run or to fight. Unfortunately, in today’s world we neither run nor fight. Yet the adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones released during this process leads to a number of symptoms including: anxiety, depression, excessive anger, hostility, high blood pressure, insomnia (lack of sleep), racing heart, increase in risk for heart attacks, and tiredness.
The most common behaviors that people use to deal with symptoms of stress are having a critical attitude towards others, overusing alcohol, compulsive eating, inability to get things done, and smoking.
As you can see, the most common coping strategies are not exactly healthy or positive choices. A matter of fact, there's not a healthy strategy on the list. One problem is that many of the healthy choices that we mentioned earlier such as exercise, yoga, and meditation aren’t easy to do during the workday. What is easy is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and soda calling your name every time you pass the vending machine. But wait! There is another choice to relieve stress while at work. Deep breathing can help you to get through the extra stress of the workday.
Deep breathing can help you to relax by lowering your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate, and easing muscle tension and the best part is you can do it at your desk. The Mayo Clinic Women’s Healthsource offers instructions on how to practice deep breathing:
1.) Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor.
2.) Close your eyes or focus on an object in the room.
3.) Inhale slowly through your nose. Visualize your diaphragm moving down to create more room for your lungs to expand.
4.) Notice your lower abdomen expand as it fills with air
5.) When your lungs are full, slowly let air out through your mouth.
6.) Repeat as many times as you need to. Be sure you have cleared your mind of the worry list that was present before.
7.) When you are ready to end your session, don’t jump out of your chair. Slowly bring yourself back into your surroundings.