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I often ask my class how many find they are doing more work today than three years ago. Almost all hands go up. Then I ask how many consider themselves good at managing the pressure coming from this increased level of stress.

Normally only few hands go up. I then proceed to share a simple, 2000-year old technique I use in my workshops, called “relaxation” (where I’m from they call it “taking a nap after lunch”—but that’s a story for another blog).

Relaxation techniques are very useful and simple ways to help manage the stress we have in our lives. In other pieces I’ve talked about the thought process surrounding resilience. This is somehow related, as relaxation isn’t just about creating an artificial peace of mind but is an intentional process that lowers the effects of stress on your mind and body. If you’re able to resist the urge to fall asleep, these techniques can be used by basically regular people who want to extend their capabilities for whatever productive ends they wish.

And if this sounds a little too New Age, be aware that there is a wide consensus these days those practitioners of relaxation at work are found to be:

  • more open to change, with the knowledge that they have some control over their own attitudes, options, actions, and reactions;
  • more able to concentrate and focus on tasks;
  • more creative, with greater resources for generating ideas and alternatives;
  • more effective at dealing with others and more flexible and adaptable.

Two Relaxation Activities

  1. The first one is very simple: it’s about being still and silent for one minute. That’s it. I find this activity very helpful before a meeting or—if your group can handle it— during a meeting to create a space for deeper conversations and deeper listening. You can then increase the duration of your stillness based on your specific need.
  2. Another activity is called Autogenic (that comes from within you) Relaxation. You do this using both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress, repeating words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a restful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.

In conclusion, in my work I observe routinely how managers are not very compassionate with themselves. Relaxation might help. And not just as a technique to be more effective in the workplace but also as a leadership development opportunity to reflect and reconsider our personal style and ability to affect change in our organizations.