Your to-do list feels never ending, you’re in back to back meetings all day and you’re watching your inbox slowly mount up. Many situations in work can trigger feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and stress, but for those managing anxiety disorders these challenging work days can lead to debilitating feelings of panic. With 76% of employees reporting moderate-to-high anxiety levels, yet only 13% feeling comfortable to access workplace support, you may find yourself feeling the pressure to suppress and hide your panic throughout the workday. Yet, anxiety has a way of making itself known and can manifest in physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, sweatiness and nausea. These symptoms are often referred to as “fight or flight”. Whilst at home, you may have the option to retreat to a quiet room, practice self-care or get outside to deescalate your anxiety. Workplaces often aren’t set up for such techniques.
Breathing exercises provide an evidence-based and accessible way to deescalate anxiety without having to leave your desk. These techniques work to deescalate your body’s “fight or flight” response by increasing airflow and in turn reducing blood pressure, lowering the heart rate and releasing pent up tension within the abdomen. Here are 5 deep breathing exercises to add to your workplace wellness toolbox:
The 4-7-8 Technique
Coined by Dr Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 technique involves:
We recommend repeating this exercise four more times or until you begin to feel your heart rate return to normal and your breathing begin to regulate.
This simple technique begins with breathing in slowly through the nose for a count of 5, then exhaling gently through the mouth for the count of 5, repeating until you begin to feel a sense of calm return. As you practice this technique, you may wish to increase your inhale and exhale count over time.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This breathing strategy enables you to slow down your breath by applying deliberate effort to each inhale and exhale. Relaxing your shoulders and keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts. Then, pursing your lips as though to whistle , exhale slowly for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times or until grounded.
For further support with workplace wellness:
AMH Works provided specialised mental wellbeing training and consultancy to tackle workplace mental ill-health across Northern Ireland.
1 in 5 NI employees are living with a diagnosed mental illness and recent research confirms that mental ill-health continues to be the leading cause of long term absence from work. AMH Works is here to help. Our evidence-based prevention and early intervention workshops are designed to equip NI workplaces with the tools to improve employee wellbeing, decrease staff absence and turnover, and create a workplace culture where mental wellbeing thrives.
The AMH works suite of training programmes include:
To find out more about how AMH Works can support your organisation to improve the mental and emotional well-being of your employees please contact [email protected] or visit https://www.amh.org.uk/services/amh-works/ .