At the end of your tether? A breathing technique to try before you walk out

frustrated woman at work

When work becomes stressful, you can start acting in unexpected ways. You may become erratic or disengaged, or perhaps find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. At times like these, when you’re at the end of your tether, you might even consider walking out. But before you do something you regret, why not take some time out to reset?

If you’re already feeling the effects of stress, it can feel patronising when a peer tells you to take a few deep breaths. But behind every good cliche is truth. As stress starts to build, your autonomic stress response kicks in, often leaving you with unpleasant symptoms like an increased heart rate or anxious feelings.

Luckily, you don’t need to crumble under the pressure. In fact, you can reset this response by incorporating this easy breathwork technique into your daily routine. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and you can feel the benefits whether you’re a complete novice or a meditation pro. Whether you’ve got 20 minutes to spare or just a few moments, why not try out this breath and see how it can change your whole outlook and maybe save your career?

To feel the benefits of breathwork, it is important to stretch before you begin. Find a quiet spot and inhale slowly, filling your whole belly. As you do so, lift your arms wide to the side of your body and bring your hands together above your head. Raise your chin and open your mouth wide, stretching out your tongue. Repeat this a few times before coming back to a neutral position. Roll your shoulders and take a minute to come to, noticing how your body feels. You’re now ready to try a breathing technique:

A breath to manage the mind when it’s in overdrive

This simple breath is a great way to release the mind from negative thoughts. It is ideal to practice if you are feeling overwhelmed by your workload, nervous about a meeting or if preparing for a difficult conversation with your boss or investor. Get comfortable with how the practice flows before you need to do it and by the time you are ready, it will be like an old friend.

Sit comfortably, anywhere that works for you – at your desk, on the bus, on a mat, on a chair – with your eyes closed and your spine straight, chin tipped slightly down.

Begin to inhale through pursed, tight lips – not a whistle but a steady stream of cool air straight down into the belly. Suspend the breath for a moment at the top of the inhale.

Exhale through the nose, and feel the warm, soft blanket of air wrap itself around you. As you settle into the breath, maybe three or four inhales in, begin to make the exhaled breath as silent as possible, and notice that when the breath is silent everything slows down. This is what you want: the slow, gentle, hissing inhale and the warm, silent exhale.

Continue for 3–11 minutes. Then inhale through the nose, exhale and be still, silent and gentle for 2–3 minutes.

Breathwork is all about what feels good for you and thanks to this simple technique, you can get your nerves under control and avoid any rash decisions about quitting. Calving time out from your busy day to engage in deep breathing will help you gain a sense of clarity and get your thoughts in order before you walk into that important meeting. It is time to regain your air of confidence and get ready to impress your colleagues and stakeholders. You’ve got this!

Carolyn CowanAbout the author

Carolyn Cowan is a London-based psychotherapist and breathwork teacher. Find out more about Carolyn and her work at


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