Even for seasoned attorneys who have years of experience and can maintain their composure on the outside during a stressful deposition, the pressure of a very important case, tension between attorneys, or the frustration of a difficult witness can still build up stress on the inside, raising heart rates, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
Stress makes the body 5 times more susceptible to all kinds of illness, including colds, flu, and allergies; it may even raise the risk of heart disease. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is released in greater amounts during times of stress to provide the body with extra needed energy and suppress the body’s immune response. But with chronic exposure to stress, cortisol levels remain elevated and the body becomes resistant to it, so there is no recovery and it no longer provides the protection it should.
The next time a witness becomes emotional, or opposing counsel makes an objection, keep your cool and protect your health with this simple technique: the 4-7-8 breath.
4-7-8 Breathing Technique:
• Place tip of tongue against ridge behind and above front teeth.
• Exhale through mouth, making whooshing sound.
• Close mouth and inhale deeply through nose to silent count of 4.
• Then hold breath for count of 7.
• Exhale through mouth to count of 8, making same whooshing sound.
• Repeat for 4 breath cycles.
Though the description of this technique may make it seem a bit awkward, it is actually quite simple. Watch this video tutorial from Dr. Weil as an introduction. Then practice it a couple of times each day until you are familiar enough that you can remember it easily and perform it inconspicuously.
Do a simple version of this technique periodically during a deposition, or a few times during a break. Or use it any time you feel stressed, such as while sitting in traffic, during an argument with a spouse, or throughout the work day. Just remember: INHALE 4, HOLD 7, EXHALE 8. You’ll take better depositions, and protect your health at the same time!