During a break from the industry, business development exec Alex Borthwick discovered the practice of breathwork. Returning to property management, she’s now showing how the practice helps her to maintain calm in a crazy industry.
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Ms Borthwick, a business development executive with BresicWhitney’s property management team, has had a long history with the real estate industry, and she knows how important maintaining mental health is to succeed in both your personal and professional life.
In 2020, with COVID-19 having thrown real estate into disarray, the property management specialist took a break from the sector, finding herself burnt out by the challenges facing the industry while also grappling with some curveballs personally.
Returning to the Gold Coast from Sydney, she was invited along to a breathwork session at the beach and describes the practice as “life-changing”.
“On my two-year hiatus during COVID, I went on a big journey of self-discovery,” she explained, commenting that like many in the industry, she felt some of the common methods of self-soothing in challenging times weren’t the healthiest coping mechanisms to fall back on.
“When we go through tough times, people deal with it in so many different ways, and I think that a lot of this industry is surrounded by alcohol and drugs and negative things that don’t necessarily lift you up,” she said.
Breathwork opened her mind to an alternative.
“I had never heard of breathwork before. Breathing exercises, yes – these little slow in and out and nice and calming breaths – breathwork is the polar opposite of that. It actually stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, which is your fight-or-flight response. This style of breathwork helps to release so much tension in your body, so much built up emotion, and it can be years and years and years’ worth of emotions that just come out,” she explained.
Ms Borthwick soon became a convert, and after taking part in many sessions as a participant, took her interest one step further to become trained as a facilitator.
She’s been awestruck by the practice’s powerful effect both on herself and the people she’s led through it.
“Emotion just comes out that you don’t realise that you even had. I’ve done long breathwork sessions where I’ve just cried, just literally wept. I’ve had sessions where I’ve laughed. I’ve screamed,” she said.
For her, the practice provides a way to release emotions that have perhaps been bottled up, and to deal with feelings in a way that feels healthy.
“We hold so much in. How are people releasing it? So often they’re not, and it shows up in our body in different ways. So much disease comes from holding stuff in our body. Finding healthy ways to release rather than turning to a glass of wine... Look, I do like a glass of wine, but rather than it being something that you’re relying on, finding healthy ways to release that stress and release that tension has been an absolute game changer for me,” she said.
Now, back in Sydney and back in the real estate industry, Ms Borthwick is shedding light on how the practice keeps her grounded in the midst of a busy work life, and what she recommends for colleagues who express an interest in breathwork.
“You can do this yourself, and it’s something that you can do for a couple of minutes or you can do for a longer period of time,” she said, though she recommends that longer sessions take place with a facilitator, who can provide support for any strong emotions that arise.
“But you can absolutely do it just for a couple of minutes yourself. What that might look like for a busy property manager is just going to a quiet room, or in their car, or on a quiet park bench. Get some fresh air and just take two minutes where you might close your eyes down and practise the flow of breath.”
There are many resources available for those who might be interested in the style, which involves manipulating the length of breaths taken through the mouth, sometimes with a pause.
For those who aren’t ready to jump into the realm of breathwork though, she says that what the practice shows is how taking small moments of space for your mental health can be transformational.
“I work at a busy job. Some days are really long, some days aren’t, but when I’m really in flow with my job, I might be working 10-hour or 12-hour days. So what can I do to not be thinking about that constantly when I get home? That might just be as simple as going for a walk,” she said, stressing that it’s not about the duration of time spent, it’s about making the time in the first place.
“If there’s people that are busy out there, that have families or long commutes or whatnot, what can you do? It doesn’t have to be hours and hours that we put aside, it can literally just be a 10- or 20-minute meditation, or go for a walk, or – what I’ve just discovered – time in an infrared sauna. It’s the best. Just create that time for yourself.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.
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