*Denise O’Brien.

We’ve all had a couple of long weekends in the last month to remind us of what it’s like to down tools and take a break away from the day to day responsibilities of life.

Some of you are getting ready to go on holiday in the coming weeks and most of us are at least wondering for a Summer break.

But what about the idea of a ‘mini-break’ every day, that allows your body and your mind to come to a calm, but alert resting state? This week I outline the importance of taking our breaks during the day, from a neurological perspective and more importantly, what we can do to improve the quality of our working life with one easy week.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze:

There is a lot of information available with regards to mental health and the effects of stress on the body. In spite of this, I regularly meet business leaders in my workshops and coaching sessions that are highly stressed, most of the time.

They might ‘know’ that stress is bad for the mind and the body, as we all do, but they don’t seem to be in a position to make the necessary changes to do anything about the stress.

In coaching I talk to people about the long term effects of stress on the body, (highlighting that I am not a medical practitioner) but most people know already that sleep disturbances, appetite fluctuations and low mood can be some of the many signals of the prolonged impact of stress on the body.

The theory tells us that if we are in a stressed state during the day that the body sends a message to the brain to prepare to fight or flee (or play dead), in the eyes of the perceived threat that it has turned into. These days however, the ‘threat’ may not to be the lions and tigers and bears of old, but perhaps more likely to be a meeting that we feel unprepared for, or facing a conversation with a client who is angry and dissatisfied with our service levels.

In any case, the brain and the body dutifully does its job and floods the body with stress hormones, including adrenalin. Living life like this, day in, day out does a lot of damage over time and can become a trigger for bigger health issues and complete burnout.

So, what can I do to help my clients and to encourage preventative methods to help people to manage their own stress, before it gets to a debilitating stage?

The Power of our Breath:

We are walking around daily, with a free tool that we can access 24/7 which holds a key to helping our body to regulate itself. This is our breath. I am a qualified multiple brain integration techniques practitioner, and part of my training in this modality involved the theoretical and practical understanding of how our breath regulates our nervous system. Simply put, breathing in a certain way, can send signals in our brain that there is no threat, we are safe and all is well. I teach participants of my workshop this technique, because lets face it, all of us will need to know this because in my view there are a very rare few people who go through their days without feeling any stress. It is part of being alive and part of the human condition. The key is to firstly recognise when it’s happening in your own body and then to understand that there is a way to re-regulate your nervous system, so that you can go on about your day and perform your tasks to the best of your ability. This is called ‘balanced breathing’.

A State of Calm Alertness:

Balanced breathing is different to breathing for relaxation. Balanced breathing is an approach that encourages our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to come back into balance, so that we don’t feel that we are either on a state of high alert, or a state of such inertia that we are unable to complete our tasks.

The instructions are as follows:

1. Place your feet on the ground, sit upright in a chair that supports your back, resting your hands on your lap.

2. Close your eyes and simply become aware of your brething. Is it shallow, do your shoulders rise when you breathe? Is your belly rising etc. Just notice what you notice for now, without any judgement.

3. Come to a state where you can breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. If this is too uncomfortable, just breathe as you normally do.

4. The trick with balanced breathing is to think of a big wheel turning, in your mind as you breathe in and out.

5. It is vital then that you get to a state where you can breathe in and out, for the same count in and the same count out, without any pausing, pushing, holding or forcing your breath at any stage.

6. In your mind’s eye, continue to see that big wheel turning and come to a nice balance of ‘same count in, same count out’ with your breathing and keep it flowing smoothly like that for a couple of minutes.

This is a powerful tool to help ‘re-regulate’ your nervous system, or simply a great way to start your day and get your mind and body synched up to be in the ideal state of being calm, yet fully alert. I can attest that it is a fantastic state to be in as you go through day. Try it now, take a break and breathe for balance. What have you got to lose?

If you would like to introduce techniques like this within your team, contact me for support – desnise@obrienlearningsolutions.ie

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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