De-Stress for Fun and Profit

By Barry Maher

Stress can sour our careers, sap our productivity, drain the joy from our lives and damage our health. We all know it’s a killer, yet often we’re so used to living with stress we barely even notice it. It’s just a given, a constant in our lives. With many jobs, it simply goes with the territory.

Here’s a simple way to gauge the stress you’re under at any given moment.

Count the number of breaths you take in a minute.

When we’re perfectly relaxed, we breathe about 10 to 12 times per minute. But nowadays who among us is perfectly relaxed?

Give it a try. The results can be frightening (and often, they should be). You may find that even during the relatively calm moments in your working day you’re averaging 15, 16 even 20 or more breaths per minute.

And that’s before the place explodes into the crisis of the day. Or that crucial meeting with your most important client.  Or, heaven forbid, that speech your boss volunteered you to give, in front of a Who’s Who of the major players in your industry.

I watched one unfortunate speaker the other day whose breathing was so quick and shallow he was virtually panting.

But just as stress drives up our breathing rate, lowering that rate actually lowers the stress.

For a quick de-stressor, try taking six second breaths: three seconds in, three seconds out. Take normal breaths, neither shallow nor particularly deep. Six seconds per complete breath, for a rate of 10 breaths per minute. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll start to feel the stress melting away.

At first, it may take 5 minutes or more to slow your breathing enough that it remains calm after you stop timing it. But the more you practice this exercise, the less time it will take. Before long, you’ll be able to do it in as little as a minute.

The crisis of the day is much easier to handle when your body isn’t in crisis as well.

San Diego, California, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2008

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