The Importance of Breathing and Balance
It took a pandemic to teach many of us about the relevance and importance of work-life balance. Setting healthy boundaries for ourselves became a necessity. Suddenly, our school age children were sharing our workplace and competing for our time and attention. Our social connections were abruptly cut off as the fear of infection became a new reality, particularly for our vulnerable populations.
Our world of work was not spared the effects of the rapid response to the pandemic, sending our complacency for a spin. Essential work took on a whole new meaning as the country and the entire world adjusted as quickly as possible. Employment took a dramatically sharp downward turn as businesses temporarily or permanently shut down.
How can we possibly maintain balance in these turbulent times?
The straight answer is we don’t. There is no balance, but we can heighten our awareness and practice acceptance. Our brains learn in patterns and we have not yet had enough time to create and repeat all of the new experiences imposed on us by this unusual circumstance so that we’re prepared to act habitually. We can, however, act consciously by paying attention to the triggers that may be causing us to spin out of control. It may seem at times that we are barely grasping the edges of reality as we knew it.
Some people have adapted quickly and are thriving by having created new opportunities and work-from-home arrangements. Some, perhaps, are still in denial of the situation while still others are searching for answers, solutions, tools, insights, or just an opportunity to feel normal again.
Is there any difference between work-life and life-work?
My life has become my work and my work has become my life. I find that as I work from home, there are no longer boundaries that distinguish my work tasks from my home tasks. If I don’t remain aware, it can be easy for me to get caught up in the negative rumination that freezes my limbic system into fight-or-flight, eventually depleting my reserves and leaving me exhausted and unable to cope.
Work-related chronic mental stress is now a recognized claim by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). As a result, many workplaces are either introducing or adapting wellness and mental health programs. Although well-intentioned, these programs will likely only scratch the surface of the support that will be needed post pandemic.
How can we create balance and keep ourselves well?
As career professionals, it’s vital that we set an example for our clients in our personal practice of self-care and well-being.
It is up to each of us to create our own balance and, personally, I find that in my breath — I focus on my breath during routine exercise and meditation, as well as by taking mindful pauses.
Bringing awareness to our breathing is an important tool to keep us in the present moment and become familiar with the sensations and messages that our bodies are communicating to us. Ask yourself: “What do I need in this moment?” There are no answers outside of us. Do you need connection or solitude, are you feeling hungry or tired, should you exercise or meditate, do you need to take a time out in nature, do you feel a need to nurture or be nurtured?
One deep breath can start to slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure, and lower stress. Breathing deeply increases energy, improves digestion, and improves immunity. Now, how does it get any better than this?
As a reminder of the benefits of deep breathing, our yoga studio created magnets to have around the house. Each magnet has just two words printed on it: “Breathe Deeply.” My husband expands on this thought by quoting one of the yoga instructors who said, “Deep breath–deep life, shallow breath–shallow life, no breath – well, you figure it out.”
We can mindfully take a pause, breathe, and connect with our families, nature, and our communities. We can move our bodies and calm our minds. We can lean on each other and ask for and offer help. We need to take care of ourselves first so that we can show up authentically in the world — ready, willing, and able.
To find our inner balance we can STOP–BREATHE–FEEL–BE; going within to be who we truly are.
Has the pandemic given you an unexpected “gift?”
I was surprised and delighted to discover that the pandemic actually gave me a gift. It gave me time and made me question who I have been in the past, so that I can focus on becoming who I truly am. A favorite quote from Wayne Dyer returned to me, screaming, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” I asked myself: “If not now, when?” So, I started writing and teaching. This is my passion; to somehow package and present decades of learning and living to make some sense of that voice inside of me all these years. That voice has guided and protected me. It is the voice of wisdom that has so freely flowed from my inner core when I stop to give it space. Well, that and playing my guitar, but that’s another story.
Have you ever had the feeling that something deep in your soul is yearning to be set free? It feels like a heaviness in your throat and chest as if it’s stuck or being blocked. Needing our voice to be heard is not a selfish act when it comes to our mental health and well-being. Self-awareness and self-care will be two of our greatest gifts post pandemic. It means listening to the voice of your soul now.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”― Howard Thurman
Exercise, mindfulness, and creativity helped me to find balance in the commotion of my mind and body. This inner turmoil was a wake-up call to live from my heart, show up authentically, and find peace in what is. We all need to find our personal balance and this can start with a single BREATH. Be well.
Watch for CPC’s new Work-Life Strategist program, launching early in 2021. It will provide career practitioners with a plethora of tools to support clients as they seek to find their balance in living, learning, and working, while also helping them create sustainable and resilient careers in this new world of work.
Carol Brochu combines a 30+ year career in HR, operations, and client service with a unique personal and spiritual development journey that has included studies in Mental Health First Aid, energy work, and self-care disciplines. She is a certified yoga and martial arts instructor, mindfulness facilitator, Me First practitioner, and CPC member.