Four Easy Ways to find Calm at Work
06th September 2017
While going for a run, meditation and yoga are great ways to find calm, it’s not always possible when you’re at work or about to go into a meeting or interview. So what can we do to find some calm in a hectic work day? Here is a list of four easy relaxation strategies guaranteed to help you find calm and focus.
You may notice that when you find yourself stressed your breathing becomes short and rapid. This form of breathing is associated with the stress response which is called the fight or flight response. This response is controlled by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.
Slow and deep breathing on the other hand, is associated with being calm. This mode is called the rest and digest response and is directed by the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. By taking deliberate slow and deep breaths we can send a message to our brain to calm down and switch off the stress response. Our brain then sends that message to our body reducing our heart rate and blood pressure. Research has shown that it’s been effectively used for coping with pre-exam stress, pain management, and of course, workplace stress.
How to do it
One of the easiest ways to engage in slow and deep breathing is to take belly breaths, so try the following:
- Place you left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest.
- Take a slow and deep breath in through the nose and concentrate on sending the air to your belly. You should notice your belly expanding and your left hand move outwards with little movement in your right hand on your chest.
- Breathe out slowly. As you breathe out, your belly should contract as your left hand moves inwards.
Mental imagery has a powerful impact on our emotions. If we retrieve a negative image from our memory or imagine a negative image, this can induce emotions such as fear, anxiety, sadness or anger. If you replay an argument you had with someone for example, you’re likely to feel angry, sad or hurt that it happened. The same thing happens if we imagine something positive. Research shows that we can recreate these emotions much more powerfully too, if we reconstruct the image rather than verbally process a thought. This means that you’re more likely to induce feelings of relaxation by imagining a time when you felt happy and calm rather than simply telling yourself to calm down. Relaxation imagery has been used effectively for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, coping with illness and workplace stress.
Research shows that we can recreate these emotions much more powerfully too, if we reconstruct the image rather than verbally process the thought. This means that you’re more likely to induce feelings of relaxation by imagining a time when you felt happy and calm rather than simply telling yourself to relax. Relaxation imagery has been used effectively for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, coping with illness and workplace stress.
How to do it
- Think of a time in your life when you felt relaxed and happy.
- What did that feel like? Where were you? What were the sounds and the smells around you.
- Create an image of that place in your mind. The more detailed the image the better.
- Once you have that image in your mind you can retrieve it whenever you feel stressed or anxious.
You might find yourself getting caught up in worrying about future events, or replaying events that happened in the past. Grounding exercises are great ways to get you back into the present moment.
How to do it
Become aware of your surroundings using all of your senses. To do this, try the following:
- Name five things you can see
- Name four things you can feel
- Name three things you can hear
- Name two things you can smell
- Name one thing you can taste
It can take some time to switch off the fight or flight response once it’s in full swing and, if you’re about to walk into a meeting, interview or do a presentation, for example, you might not be feeling in the mood to think about images or deep breathing. Instead, you could reappraise your stress response.
Stress is not always a bad thing. It can motivate and prime you to do your best. In a previous blog post, I discussed the benefits of thinking about stress differently. For example, physiologically there is little difference between stress and excitement so rather than interpret your stress response as a sign you’re not coping think about it as a sign you’re excited about the upcoming task.
Varvogli, L. & Darviri. C. (2011). Stress management techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal. Retrieved from http://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.php?aid=3429
Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical hypotheses, 67(3), 566-571.Retrieved from
Holmes, E. A., Arntz, A., & Smucker, M. R. (2007). Imagery rescripting in cognitive behaviour therapy: Images, treatment techniques and outcomes. Journal of Behavior Therapy, 38, 297-305.Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18035331
Richardson, K. M., & Rothstein, H. R. (2008). Effects of occupational stress management intervention programs: a meta-analysis. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hannah_Rothstein/publication/5640926_Effects_of_Occupational_Stress_Management_Intervention_Programs_A_Meta-Analysis/links/0912f50a6744070cba000000/Effects-of-Occupational-Stress-Management-Intervention-Programs-A-Meta-Analysis.pdf