Worktank’s Director of Content Solutions (and registered yoga instructor) Evan Sadler shares five simple stress relieving exercises you can do between meetings, or as a way to encourage wellness and renewal within your team.
Why Stress Management Matters for C-Suite Executives
At Worktank, we spend a lot of time with C-suite executives, helping them connect with their global teams via video communications, virtual all-hands meetings, hybrid broadcast events, and the like. We’ve realized these leaders spend a lot of time in meetings, but we’ve also noticed that the higher you are in an organization, the more stress you experience in your role.
Stress can affect all kinds of leadership responsibilities, from your decision-making skills to the ability to manage people. It can cause restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, irritable, angry, sad, or depressed – not exactly the best traits for a leader.
Relaxation Exercises to Manage Executive Stress
To help executives and presenters relieve stress during particularly long technical rehearsals or to calm their nerves before a presentation, Worktank producers recommend simple breathing and calming exercises. These same exercises, which take less than five minutes each, are also ideal for relieving stress at the office, and refreshing your mind between meetings.
Kapalabhati or Skull Shining Breath
Kapalabhati is yogic breathwork that mimics hyperventilation. While it sounds uncomfortable, the effect is extremely calming. The breath practice occurs while sitting either on the floor, on a mat with legs or ankles crossed, or sitting upright in a chair. Close your eyes and tilt your chin slightly downward with feet firmly rooted on the ground.
Complete three, one-minute repetitions with about 30 seconds in between each cycle.
Take a deep inhale and using your abdominal muscles, snap your belly inward with quick repeated exhales through pursed lips. While the sensation is exhale-only, you are taking in air as you contract (snap) your belly. It sounds like quick, repeated shhh, shhh, shhh locomotive sound bursts. You will not feel an inhale sensation – and that’s the correct form.
At the end of one minute, return to a relaxed normal breathing. Notice how you feel. If at any point you feel uneasy or lightheaded during the one-minute cycle, simply return to your normal breath and begin again. Because of the rapid succession of the breath, you instantly disrupt negative or busy thoughts, and the sensation of the quick snap of the belly and exhale will leave you feeling euphoric after three cycles.
For this simple breath exercise, sit on a mat with your legs crossed at the knees or ankles. You may also sit on a chair with your arms by your side and feet firmly rooted to the floor. Close your eyes and take a few normal breaths in and out through your nose. Before you begin, start by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth with a large sigh. Try this a few times to expel your stressors and center yourself.
Breathe in through your nose for a count of five. Then breathe out evenly through your nose for a count of five. Pause for a second, and repeat. Focus on breathing evenly in through your nose. Feel the air extend your belly and when your belly is full of air, slowly exhale through your nose, until all the air leaves your body. Continue for the remainder of the five-minute exercise.
As the breath is even and predictable, thoughts will come to you. Find a way to dismiss the random thoughts – laugh at them or imagine waving them away. If your mind is racing, stay focused on the breath by visualizing the numbers as you count.
At the end of five minutes, your breath will be more even, and you will feel more grounded and calm.
Familiar music is an excellent way to reset your mood and state-of-being. Select three to five of your favorite music tracks that add up to as close to 10-minutes as possible. It can be any genre, and the only requirement is that the music takes you to a positive place.
When you reach a moment of stress or overstimulation while working at your desk, push your chair back and begin playing your soundtrack. Take your eyes away from your computer and take a true break that starts and ends with your playlist. If possible, lay down on a mat, arms by your side, legs relaxed. Close your eyes and simply take in the music.
This exercise is deeply familiar, and the effect of the playlist is grounding and will improve your mood.
5-Minute Gratitude Journal
Journaling can be intimidating, but this exercise breaks it down into a structured five-minute session that quickly shifts your mindset to a positive place.
For five minutes, make a list of all the people, places, things, animals, feelings for which you are grateful – anything that brings you an immediate sense of gratitude. It’s important to put pen to paper and continue writing for the total time. Write whatever comes to mind and be kind to yourself. There’s no judgment on what you write or how you write it. This is a reminder of the positivity in your life. If you feel any negative thoughts, pause, laugh at them, and continue.
Keep the journal close to you, on your desk or nightstand. If you have a tough moment or are feeling blue, reach for your journal and remind yourself of the good and sustaining parts of your life.
5-Minute Rest & Renew
Designed to calm your nervous system and slow your heart rate, this 5-minute exercise combines three poses commonly used at the close of yoga practice to bring participants to a fully restored state – and they can have the same effect when you’re experiencing stress at work or feeling tense before or after a meeting.
First, stand with your feet together, your arms by your side. Close your eyes. With your palms facing outwards, slowly lift your arms up as you breathe in for a count of five. When your palms touch above your head, pause for a second, then slowly lower your arms back to your side and breathe out evenly for a count of five. Feel the stress, anxiety and negative thoughts fall away. Pause, and repeat for a total of two minutes.
Bring your knees to the floor and sit back on your heels (use a bolster or pillow beneath your tail if your knees hurt or you experience any mobility issues). Stretch up from the waist, lift your torso, and bring your arms above your head for a count of five. As you exhale for five counts, slowly bow forward, bring your hands in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat or surface in front of you. Now, with your head below your heart, breathe evenly in and out through your nose. Feel the stretch in your low back and feel your spine lengthen as you relax for the duration of the pose.
From child’s pose, simply roll over onto your back and lay still with your arms by your side. Allow your hips, knees and ankles to comfortably open. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Feel your body melting into the mat and relax every muscle. Scan your body from head to toe and release any tension you feel.
Stress-Free Presentations Start with Worktank
The ability to not only manage, but master stress and thrive in the face of adversity, is fundamental to being a great leader. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Especially these days, when many C-suite executives are stepping out of their comfort zone and behind a video camera, recording virtual meetings and live streaming presentations around the globe. Even the best, most high-profile leaders and presenters need a little help from the professionals.
That’s where Worktank comes in. We specialize in live, virtual, and hybrid event production and video streaming services for company town halls and all-hands meetings, executive presentations, c-suite communications, and more. We can even help you with virtual stage fright.