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A Deep Breath Won’t Solve All of Your Problems

Posted Feb 22 2011 4:55pm

When asked the question, “What one thing can people do today to start relieving their stress at work,” I almost always answer with, “Take a few deep breaths.”

Why do I answer this way? Because deep breaths are cheap, don’t require any equipment, and don’t require any additional time out of your day (you are breathing anyway, right?). Besides deep breathing is known to have tremendous health benefits.

Here is the catch: deep breaths won’t solve your problems.

Deep breaths will make you feel better, help you clear your mind, and organize your thoughts. You might even feel your muscles and body relax when you focus on deep breaths. Chances are, though, the situation that sent you into a state of stress remains.

I remember the first time I experienced the power of deep breathing. I had just finished yelling and screaming at a colleague over the phone – how I responded to stress at work 6 years ago. I hung up the phone and said to myself, “There has to be a better way.” Remembering what my yoga instructor had said about “taking your yoga off your mat” I sat back in my chair, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. In that minute I could feel my shoulders detach from my ears, my thoughts slow and my breath normalize. I actually smiled. I felt good.

Sometimes you can’t do anything until you personally are in a good place. It’s what Stephen Covey refers to as the space between the stimulus (the event) and your response . Breathing is a great way to fill the space, calm your thoughts and respond favorably. This gives you a moment to stay “in control” and choose your response. Reacting is often out of control.

Next time you’re feeling irritated, stressed out or overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths to put yourself in a space where you feel good. Then take the next step to solve the problem.

What do you think? Do you use deep breathing as a stress relieving tool. How does it work for you? Or maybe you think it’s foolish. I want to hear that side, too!

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