The Power of Breathing: Staying Calm at Work When Stress Feels Overwhelming

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Breathing, something we do hundreds of times a day without even thinking about it. Breathing is an automatic process that ensures our survival. But breathing can also be used for more than just surviving. Research into slow and deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) has suggested that controlling our breathing can have a myriad of benefits for our health. Controlled breathing can lead to:

- Reduce anxiety

- Lowers your heart rate

- Boosts your mood

- Increases attention

- Lowers stress (cortisol) levels

Controlled breathing isn't just useful in healthy individuals but research has shown it to be beneficial in a number of chronic conditions such as Asthma, Emphysema and gestational diabetes.

Breathing exercises can be particularly helpful at work when you start to feel stressed and the panic takes over. Take some time out of your work day to practise these controlled breathing exercises.

The more you can get into the habit of practising the breathing techniques that work for you the quicker and more effective they will be when you need them in stressful situations.

So how can you have a go at controlled breathing?

We've put together a couple of breathing techniques you can try below.

Breathing Techniques

Belly Breathing

1) First, take a normal breath.

2) Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. You can place your hand on your stomach to feel it expand.

3) Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

4) Repeat these steps 3 or 4 times or more if you feel you would like to.

Breathing By Numbers

1) Stand up, staying still, and close your eyes.

2) Inhale deeply until you can’t take in anymore air.

3) Exhale until all air has been emptied from your lungs.Keep your eyes closed!

4) Now, inhale again whilst counting to three in your head.

5) Keep the air in your lungs for a few seconds.

6) Now, exhale the air whilst counting to 5 in your head.

7) Inhale again whilst counting to 3 in your head.

8) Keep the air in your lungs for a few seconds.

9) Now, exhale the air whilst counting to 5 in your head.

10) Repeat this breathing exercise 3 or 4 times or more if you feel you would like to.

Let us know in the comments how you get on or if you have any techniques you would like to share.


Engen, R. L. (2005). The singer's breath: implications for treatment of persons with emphysema. Journal of Music Therapy, 42(1), 20-48.

Fiskin, G., & Sahin, N. H. (2018). Effect of diaphragmatic breathing exercise on psychological parameters in gestational diabetes: A randomised controlled trial. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 23, 50-56.

Georga, G., Chrousos, G., Artemiadis, A., Panagiotis, P. P., Bakakos, P., & Darviri, C. (2019). The effect of stress management incorporating progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback-assisted relaxation breathing on patients with asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 6(2), 73-77.

Manzoni, G. M., Pagnini, F., Castelnuovo, G., & Molinari, E. (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry, 8(1), 41.

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., ... & Li, Y. F. (2017). The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874.

Steffen, P. R., Austin, T., DeBarros, A., & Brown, T. (2017). The impact of resonance frequency breathing on measures of heart rate variability, blood pressure, and mood. Frontiers in public health, 5, 222.

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