Stress Solutions for a Remote Workforce: A digital toolkit from Breathe to Perform
By David J Bidler
If you’re reading this, the chances are that your life just got flipped upside down.
I know mine has.
As I sit down to write this article we are more than one month into a national quarantine due to COVID-19. Businesses are closed indefinitely. Busy offices are quiet and empty. Millions of us are sitting in living rooms and working from laptops while trying to make sense of a strange new world.
We build systems for success and create routines for productivity. We are creatures of habit and we are social creatures. Neither trait is strengthened by the sudden isolation of quarantine-and our stress levels are at an all time high as a result.
This toolkit won’t change that.
What it will do is give you some tools to approach each day with a clearer mind.
We hope it helps you take control of stress, peak your mental and physical fitness, and feel your absolute best when it matters most.
Stress: Let’s have a better conversation.
One of the greatest challenges in stress management is the lack of a clear definition surrounding the term.
Is stress good? Is it bad? Do we need to reduce it or simply get more skilled at managing it?
The National Institute of Stress defines the term as follows:
Stress is any physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension that we experience-whether positive or negative.
For the sake of this article this is the definition that we’ll use.
Subconsciously we may already know that strain on the body or mind can have both positive or negative results.
The positive stress of exercise strains muscles so they grow. That’s why we work out.
The strain of a difficult hike is a stress that we look forward to. That’s why we lace up our hiking boots in the first place.
Yet, when finishing up a tough workout or challenging hike we rarely say “That was great! I’m so stressed!”
We engage in acute stress willfully.
Yet, we often reserve the term itself for the chronic stress that we experience in our lives.
It is the stress that exceeds our ability to effectively manage it and adapt positively as a result that takes a cumulative toll on our mental and physical health.
Whether positive or negative, all stress has the potential to cause changes to our body and brain.
Similarly, when we experience any type of stress, it is the body and the brain that responds first.
Our heart rate increases, skin temperature warms, and our breathing patterns change-all before we are consciously aware that we’re getting “stressed out.”
The more that we understand the body’s stress response the more that we can choose how stress affects us.
Our team at Breathe to Perform traveled to Stanford University in 2017 to study the physiology of stress and anxiety. Through participating in the virtual reality experiments outlined in the video below we learned how the body responds to stress-and how controlled breathing impacts the stress response.
Why Does Stress Management Matter?
Stress management is arguably the most important skill of the 21st Century.
Take just a second to think about the goals that mean the most to you.
Not “work” goals. Not performance expectations. Your goals. The things that you want most in your life.
Now, take a moment to visualize some of the challenges that you may meet as you work to achieve these goals.
The skill of stress management will play a major role in your ability to meet these challenges when you encounter them.
How We Think About Stress Matters-A Lot.
Stress is a natural part of modern life. It is our perception of stress that has the greatest impact on how it effects our health.
In a study of over 180 million Americans those who thought that stress negatively impacted their health had a significantly higher risk of physical and mental health issues.
Thinking of stress management as a skill can dramatically change the way that stress effects you.
Here are some simple tools to hone that skill-especially when stress hits suddenly and you need to manage it on the spot.
Stress Tip: Noticing the slight changes in breathing and muscle tension that take place before the feeling of stress-or anxiety-is noticeable lets you get the jump on the stress response.
30 second stress solution: Shift your focal point of vision from narrow to peripheral. Take in the whole room with your eyes. Span your gaze as wide as you can. This is why cows are so chill. Seriously. Peripheral vision is one of the quickest ways to make changes in your brain that lower stress levels in the body-and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
2 minute stress solution: This 2 minute breathing exercise will shift your body and brain into a state of relaxation. Use it before bed or whenever you need to shift from stressed to relaxed in 2 minutes.
5 minute stress solution: This 5 minute stretching and breathing sequence will teach you how to direct airflow throughout the body. Great for reducing low back or shoulder tightness-or just mellowing out.
Below you’ll find the first day of our Breathe to Perform online course. We built the course to share a simple 4 step program with anyone who wants to access their innate mental and physical potential through the power of better breathing.
Use this digital toolkit from Breathe to Perform anytime that you want to get ahead of the stress response and pass it along to a friend, co-worker, and anyone else who may find it helpful!
Wishing you smooth passage through a challenging moment in time and sending all of our best from Breathe to Perform.
David Bidler and Lex Clark, co-founders, Breathe to Perform
About our company:
Breathe to Perform provides stress management solutions and professional development services to industry leaders and their teams.
Follow us @breathetoperform on Instagram for stress management strategies, breathing exercises, online fitness training, and more!
About the author:
David Bidler is president of Physiology First, a nonprofit organization that shares solutions to stress and anxiety management with students across the globe.
In 2017 David co-founded Breathe to Perform to share the power of better breathing with individuals, families, workplaces, and teams.
David is the author of the upcoming book Breathe To Perform: 3 Simple Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress, Improve Energy, and Peak Athletic Performance coming in April, 2020.
David owns and operates The Distance Project: Strength and Conditioning in Freeport, Maine.