Have you ever had an argument which was so heated that it seemed to “ruin your whole day?” Remember the time when your work colleague said something that really made you angry or your child had a tantrum out of nowhere. These situations trigger our emotions and lead us to stress – our sympathetic nervous system is switched on leading to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and “fight or flight” mode. It’s useful if you are being chased by a bear but not so much when you need to finish a presentation for work or get the kids ready for bed.
Seems like every time we need to get things done quickly we get triggered by stress the most. Tasks and obligations pile up and we become even more stressed. Sounds familiar?
I can remember every situation when I had a deadline. Things often go wrong when I’m right near the end of the deadline. With my kids, it is only when I am getting them ready for school or ready for bed and it is late that they somehow seem to know that the pressure is on so they decide (as kids do) that now would be the perfect time to have a tantrum over what to wear. It is no wonder that I feel like I could explode in these moments of stress on top of time pressure.
The tip is to learn to override this trigger of stress. The quickest solution is to breathe deeply into the belly to stimulate the vagus nerve which kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system. This slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and switches on “relaxation” mode.
How do we do this?
Place one hand over your heart and another hand over your belly. Breathe into the hand on your belly and feel the belly rise and fall with each breath. Aim to have no movement of the hand over your heart. Now try to breathe in for a count of 8 and breathe out for a count of 10. Repeat this for 10 breaths and notice how you feel much calmer. Imagine breathing in a feeling of calm and breathing out the stress. Feel the stress leaving your body with each exhalation.
Once you try this a few times, you will be able to do it without placing your hands so that you can do it anywhere without being noticed. Practice when you are not stressed and then, you will have this simple tool to instantly calm yourself whenever you are triggered by a stressful situation.
So now whenever I’m under work pressure and the kids add to it I tell them that I need a moment to calm down and breath. It’s a great way not only to calm down myself but also to teach kids an effective mindful technique by your example. This is only one simple technique but if you would like to work on managing your stress through a program of neurological strategies, contact me.