Deep breathing reduces stress
What I have learned from other mentors is that deep breathing is one of the body’s natural ways to increase serotonin, which increases clarity and reduces stress. Whether structuring a pitch or presenting to major agencies like the FDA, any significant source of stress can be handled better with a few minutes of conscious breathing. Sweeney says, “Taking five minutes that you use to breathe will make other processes much easier to complete.” Creating the right mental space to your work environment is key, and just five to ten minutes of deep breathing exercises can increase serotonin production, which is proven to improve mood and focus, and can set you up for a smoother work experience.
Conscious breathing also goes beyond our own serotonin production. It can help reduce overall stress by improving stressful situations. Taking time to breathe during a presentation helps slow down your speaking speed, making you sound more confident in high-pressure situations. The pauses also give your listeners the opportunity to absorb what you’re saying, which eases communication between you and your audience. I would call this “mindful breathing” in that you are learning to be more consciously aware of yourself. I’ve personally discovered when I don’t follow this approach, I become more stressed, less focused and over-all more pessimistic.
Here are some benefits Mindful breathing provides to your daily lifestyle:
Improves your memory
Building better breathing habits also have longer-term effects beyond getting through stressful times. Recent studies have shown that the rhythm of breath influences our brain activity, with deep inhalation stimulating the cognitive tasks related to the amygdala and hippocampus. These sections of the brain control our mood, memory, and thought processing, and as neurology professor Jay Gottfried wrote in Neuroscience, “When you inhale, you’re in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network.” By breathing with intention, you can guide yourself into a new cognitive headspace and strengthen your neural networks, helping you nail the important details of your presentation.
Shortens your reaction time
Working in Regulatory Affairs is highly specialized, and the competition is fierce. There’s very limited time to put together proposals, prepare for meetings, and then give the actual presentation. When you factor in the pressure of speaking in front of powerful and influential people, it’s understandable how even seasoned pros can get taken out of their comfort zone. Breathing keeps the mind elastic, allowing you to juggle multiple tasks at once and maintain your clarity throughout. This is important in times of preparation, but also in presentations where listening and responding in a timely and accurate manner will get you ahead. Deep breathing is something that Sweeney says helps to “cut down stress and build more momentum in your focus and your confidence.” Improved confidence and clarity will help you become more decisive and responsive in these high-pressure situations.
Productivity is more than just a buzzword; in Regulatory Affairs, it’s a must-have. When preparing for your presentation, it can be overwhelming to process all the steps to achieve your best results. Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, help stimulate the areas of the brain that help us stay focused and accomplish day-to-day tasks. Tapping into this clarity can help you keep sight of the bigger picture when planning your presentation without losing the minutiae along the way.
Makes you more creative
Presenting to an agency is a type of performance, and creativity is a key part of any good show. Sweeney admits that “there’s a lot of improv” because you’re thinking on your feet and reacting to your audience throughout the presentation. As previously mentioned, deep breathing gives your audience an opportunity to absorb what you’ve said, but it also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts before responding. “A lot of people want to run from the silence,” Sweeney says. “I found that that space there is powerful. You have to have a lot of confidence to present and then stop and recognize that people are probably still processing this information.”
In Regulatory Affairs, the details matter. Dealing with a scrutinizing audience produces a lot of pressure, and there aren’t often second chances. Still, there are plenty of steps to prepare yourself for success and something as simple as deep breathing can radically shift your workflow, open you up to innovative ideas, and improve your overall presentation skills. “Just breathe out that negativity, feel it coming out of you and feel the good stuff coming in,” Sweeney advises. “Just be kind to yourself. The plasticity in your brain can mold and rewire very quickly. If you do this for a week or two, it starts to become clockwork and the perception of who you are and what you're doing completely changes.” But don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself. Good luck and prosper!