The Case for Workplace Breathing
Breathing is breathing is breathing, correct? We do it all day and it doesn’t matter where we are. Not so fast!
While we all might know that breathing patterns change during intense activities such as running or singing, only a few of us might have noticed how breathing changes when we work.
What has recently become known as screen apnea (in analogy to sleep apnea)might be familiar to the many workers spending their day in front of a screen and is tightly linked to increased levels of workplace stress, mental health problems, and alarming numbers of burnouts. Screen apnea describes the phenomenon of starting to breathe shallowly or even unconsciously holding your breath when looking at the screen. The more stress you experience at work - may it be conflicts with co-workers, tight deadlines, or overall pressure - the higher the likelihood you fall prey to this breathing pattern.
And the negative effects on your body and mind are not to be taken lightly: such suboptimal breathing leads to your body being underserved with oxygen, which in turn decreases your ability to process information, make decisions, or handle more incoming stress. In the long run, the effects are even worse - hypertension (or high blood pressure), chronic diseases, or even neurological disorders might follow. It’s a vicious circle where the more stress you have, the worse your breathing becomes, which in turn increases the stress perceived by your body and mind.
With that in mind, you might want to pay attention to your breathing the next time an angry email pops into your mailbox or your boss wants to push the deadline. Noticing that your breath changes is the first step to stopping the flywheel of screen apnea and stress. Once this is accomplished, there are easy breathing exercises to help you come back to a nourishing breathing pattern.
For example, you can try outbox-breathing, also sometimes known as Navy-Seal breathing (and they probably know a thing or two about managing stress): Hold your breath and count to four. Hold your breath (no clamping of mouth or nose needed, just don’t inhale or exhale) for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds, and finally hold your breath again before starting all over with inhaling to the count of four.
Do this exercise once or twice a day for a few minutes and notice how your overall breathing changes and how your screen apnea might already become less and less.
If you want to find out more about what breathing patterns you can use during your workday, visit our other blog“ Breathing as a secret to effectively coping with stress - why does this work?”. For personalized guided breathing exercises, try out the Chojuu app and check out our breathing journeys, which are dedicated programs for companies and teams, specifically designed to help you breathe better at work and find a routine to integrate breathwork into the workplace.
Live better - breath by breath.