We start another week of remote working from home.
For some people, that means the stress of juggling activities with the children and trying to focus on work – often whilst sitting in a confined space for long hours with little relief from background noise, distractions and irritations from others.
For others who live alone, it means the feeling of discomfort from isolation and loneliness.
It comes as no surprise that this shift in our way of working and the environment in which we now need to work effectively, can cause some stress response. Our sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the fight, flight, freeze response, was once alerted by the threat of a life and death situation. These days, any change which causes discomfort has the same effect. In this state of stress, we can experience short breathing, a contraction in muscles and our ability to think clearly, communicate and act calmly becomes challenged.
Unfortunately, most of the time, we don’t even notice, until it is too late. A sharp comment, a reaction from dissatisfaction or annoyance can start a snowball effect, such that one person’s initial response negatively impacts the other. That person may retaliate in a similar way, mirroring the same impact back. The result is rising tensions, miscommunication, more disconnection, unhappiness and exhaustion.
For single workers alone at home, the circumstances are different, but the impact is the same. Being left to one’s thoughts without healthy self-inquiry to curb the monkey mind, can also lead us to more disconnection with ourselves and others.
Luckily, there is one small technique, which we all have available to us – anytime and anywhere. You can do it alone or with others in the room. It is free and only takes a few short minutes – in fact, you decide how long you can invest in this activity. Even doing it for 30 seconds is a good start.
Breathing in a slow and rhythmic pattern has many positive effects on the nervous system. Where stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and stress response, breathing in this way stimulates the parasympathetic system, which controls your rest, relax, and digest response.
This breathing takes us out of the mind and back to into the body. It reduces the heart rate, blood pressure and inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body and mind to a calm and composed state.
It is quick and easy. The numbers correspond to the second counts you need to inhale, hold and exhale respectively. The ratio is important too. When your exhale is a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
Do it as often during the day, as you like. Take that moment for yourself. Close your eyes. Put earplugs in, if you can't leave the room. Soon you will feel the benefits.
At the beginning of every coaching conversation with my clients, we start with this breathing technique, slowly and rhythmically, with eyes closed. The client notices immediately how calm they feel. They can think more clearly and deeply, and the quality of the conversation is much richer. They are more able to see new possibilities and are open to adjust and take any necessary action – without overwhelm.
If you are a company and want to offer easy access to this type of instant stress relief, with personal guidance during these times, read more about it here.
We enable employees to access 30-minute, 1:1, online coaching conversations on demand, when they need a boost in well-being and engagement support. It is scalable for small organisations who have little HR support infrastructure and can be made available for large organisations as well. It is flexible to be implemented as an ongoing well-being service or as a short term initiative to boost energy, performance or relieve stress.
Curious to learn more?