In the course of our day, we often get spun up, anxious, or nervous about something. Maybe it’s the pre-presentation jitters or asking-for-the-sale shakes. Maybe it’s your first big group presentation, or your first time in front of a large audience. Your nerves go into overdrive, and you unknowingly slip into reaction mode with very little thought or control over the words you speak and the actions you take. And in business, that can be absolutely disastrous.
The remedy? Relax. Take a deep breath.
Proper breathing and proper breathing exercises have all kinds of benefits. It strengthens the immune system, the lungs, the heart, and your muscles. It improves the nervous system and the quality of your blood. It increases digestion of food and assists in weight control and improved posture. It elevates mood, boosts energy levels, and improves stamina. All things that you and I can benefit from, wouldn’t you say?
Now think about this: weighing in at approximately 3 pounds, the human brain requires 20% of the body’s oxygen to perform. So simply put, when you’re starving your body of oxygen, you’re not going to think clearly or perform to your fullest capabilities. So let’s take a look at 3 breathing strategies for different situations you may find yourself in in the field.
- Relaxing breath. This method is best used when you need to calm your nerves, your anxiety level, or to simply just keep your mind from racing, running away from you. By simply breathing full inhales and exhales for a few minutes you can slow down your nervous system, which allows you to think more clearly and calmly. So here’s how you do it. Inhale through your nose for 3-4 seconds, opening up your entire lungs. Your breath should reach the absolute bottom of your lungs. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for 6-8 seconds. In this exercise your breath ratio is a 1:2 inhale to exhale. Repeat that breathing exercise for 2-3 minutes. You want to try this technique before you maybe walk into an appointment, make an important phone call, or make a presentation to a large group.
- Wake up breath. Have you ever sat through a long presentation, conference call, or meeting, struggling to stay awake or to remain engaged? This method will help stimulate your nervous system without having to use caffeine. So here’s how this exercise works. Breathe in and out of your nose as fast as you can, but very shallowly, for about 15-30 seconds, using only the top of your lungs. Now if you have any young children, it should resemble the beginning stages of an ensuing temper tantrum! This method will speed up the central nervous system, your heart rate will increase, and blood will begin to flow more rapidly to your brain. A bit of advice when using this breathing method: if you’re in a group setting, you might want to excuse yourself and conduct this exercise in private. If not, you might alarm those sitting near you!
- Running breath. When watching elite runners compete, you never see them huffing and puffing uncontrollably. That’s because they’ve learned how to breathe under stress. The running breath method is a 1:1 ratio of inhales to exhales. Typically, this results in a pattern of 2-3 steps per inhale, and 2-3 steps per exhale. This enables your body to get the needed oxygen to your brain and muscles as well as the carbon dioxide out of your system, which will help you regulate your heart rate. Now this method will allow you not only to perform better physically, but also engage the thinking part of your brain at the same time. Now this type of breathing can be used when working large trade shows or community events or other situations in which you will be engaging multiple people in a rapid-fire sequence. It will help you keep your energy level high and your mind sharp.
So breathing is just one of the many skills that can be used to increase your performance, and it’s one tool I recommend mastering.