Team activity — ABCDs of de-stressing

This activity helps team members develop skills for calming the mind, improving focus and reducing stress. Disconnecting from the virtual world and distractions, can help reduce technology-related stress even when done online. This can be done at the beginning or end of a meeting.

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Time required

Approximately 10-15 minutes per session.


Ideally, the leader would try this activity a few times on their own, before rolling it out to their team.

When performing this activity virtually ensure the team is aware ahead of the session that the following should be done to prepare themselves:

  • Remove distractions from your immediate area or consider using earphones so you only hear the online instructions
    • Computer notifications should be turned off during the session to reduce distractions
    • Any devices nearby should be on silent or can be moved altogether if they’re still too distracting
    • Microphones should be muted for this activity. Cameras can also be off for anyone who prefers that.

Suggested wording

Most work situations require focus and energy. Slowing down may feel counterproductive. Yet research shows that taking time to slow down, even for just a few minutes, can improve productivity and focus.

As challenging or uncomfortable as it may feel for some of you, please give this a try. Notice the stress that is in your body right now. Is it in your neck, around your eyes, in your shoulders? Pay attention and notice the changes after we complete this exercise. I’ll be talking in my best calm, slow voice and you just need to close your eyes and follow my instructions, which are conveniently labeled A, B, C, and D. Try to keep your body and mind still throughout this exercise.

  1. A is for “Anatomy”. We don’t want the physical body getting in the way of the mind. Sit comfortably in your chair, feet on the ground, hands placed on your legs or in your lap. Don’t lean too far back – you may get sleepy, and this is about calming an alert mind.
  2. B is for “Breathing”. Just breathe in (demonstrate breathing in slowly) and out (demonstrate breathing out slowly). The skill here is to train your mental focus on your breath rather than on your thoughts. Breathe in and out normally; don’t hold your breath or exaggerate it. Just pay attention to it.
  3. C is for “Counting”. Breathe gently while you silently count in and out. “1” breathe in, “2” breathe out, “3” breathe in, and “4” breathe out. (While whispering lead the group slowly through a count of 10, then ask them to continue for another minute or so on their own. Give the next instruction in a soft voice, after 20 seconds or so, making sure your microphone is not too close to your mouth creating a peaceful tone.)
  4. D is for “Distraction”. You will get distracted by sounds, smells and thoughts. Each time you notice you’re being distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breathing and start again at one. Continue to focus on your breathing and I will let you know when to stop.


Allow the group to continue in silence for a few minutes. Wrap up in a soft voice.

Suggested wording

When you are ready, open your eyes, look around, and maybe take a stretch.

Pay attention to the places where you felt stress when we started. Is it the same or better?

 Do you feel more or less focused?

We did this for fewer than five minutes, yet most of us will have gained a sense of calmer focus.

 As you go about your day, see if you can maintain a calmer, more productive focus.


You can also follow up by suggesting people try this the next time they’re feeling stressed or anticipate they’ll be going into a stressful situation.

If they’re interested in why this works, you could recommend they listen to the Ted Talk by Andy Puddicombe, “All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes.”

Find more activities like this at Team building activities.

Contributors include.articlesAdriana RickettsMary Ann BayntonSarah JennerWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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