3 breathing techniques to prevent burnout

April 22, 2022

Oftentimes, it’s difficult to tell when you have reached your limit and are on the verge of burnout. The causes that may lead to it can be subjective and thus depend on the emotional condition of the individual. However, there are objective factors that drive burnout that can be measured and on which we can try to intervene with scientific techniques.

At EMOTAI, we identify if you are at risk of burnout (check our self-assessment test here) and propose neuroscience-based solutions to prevent it.

What is HRV, and why is it important?

Our bodies’ fight or flight system (triggered by an acute stress response) and, conversely, our relaxation responses, are controlled by our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Our ANS gets us ready to act and react to different demands that life throws at us.

In a normal, healthy situation, our resting heart rate is lower and the intervals between our heartbeats should vary in milliseconds (see image). Our body is not a machine and when relaxed, it’s standard to have variation between heartbeats. This variation is called Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

When we are at risk of burnout, we are in excessive and prolonged stress. This is triggered by our fight or flight mode, that causes our heart to speed up, which allows less room for variation between heartbeats. This means our Heart Rate Variability is low.

A high HRV is a good indicator of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Many studies indicate that if we increase our HRV, we can “trick” our ANS into thinking we are relaxed, which will then reduce our stress.

How to reduce the risk of burnout with breathing exercises?

Here are 3 simple and effective breathing techniques that increase your HRV and may help you to prevent burnout, by reducing your stress levels:

1. 5:5 rule, or equal breathing

The 5:5 technique is very helpful to restore focus, regardless of what stressful situation you have to deal with. The basic technique is to keep your inhales and exhales at the same duration. By bringing your attention to keeping your breath balanced, it reduces anxiety and allows you to stay focused on what needs to be done.

  • Slowly inhale through your nose for 5 seconds;
  • Release the air through your mouth for 5 seconds;
  • Repeat at least 10 times.

2. Deep calm breathing (4-7-8)

The 4-7-8 breathing is a relaxation technique that promotes tranquility by acting on the nervous system, by slowing down your heart rate.

  • Keep your back straight;
  • Press the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth;
  • Keep your mouth closed and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds;
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds;
  • Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, making a "whoosh" sound while exhaling.
  • Repeat at least 4 times.

3. Box breathing

This exercise leads to both long term and short term benefits. In the short term it is widely used for stress management, while in the long term it also helps with your ability to meditate, helping to increase positive thoughts and reducing the risk of depression.

  • Exhale for 4 seconds through your mouth;
  • Hold the breath for 4 seconds;
  • Inhale for 4 seconds;
  • Pause for another 4 seconds;
  • Repeat at least 5 times.

Book a demo and see how EMOTAI leverages biofeedback breathing exercises to increase productivity by reducing stress and improving work-life balance!

What is biofeedback and how can it help you ask? Biofeedback makes it easier for you to understand your physiological response to different breathing techniques, and better control these patterns. Keep your eyes peeled for our next blog post where we will dive into biofeedback!