Life is like riding a roller coaster, there will be times of great fun and joy and times of white-knuckling it, knowing this to be the case and having some tools and tips ready for support can help to keep us grounded and centred.
It’s useful to have things that you always do (proactive), things that you can do when the stress response hits (responsive) and things that you can do knowing the stress response is about to hit (anticipatory) – I’d like to share a couple in case you too might find them useful.
This is the group of things that keeps our baseline high so that we can feel spacious and grounded ongoing and not being held hostage to a nervous system on edge. These are practices like regular meditation, exercise, nourishing food, quality sleep and alignment to our values. We all have an inner knowing about what’s best for us and it’s about making this as regular a choice as possible. Ultimately seeing these as our non-negotiable habits.
When our stress response is activated and our animal nature shifts us to fight, flight or freeze we have moved in to our sympathetic nervous system (ironic naming I know!) and our goal is to try to shift it back in to the calm, composed state known as the parasympathetic. This is bloody hard to do in the actual moment but even being aware can help. Some things you might like to try:
BOX breath – inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale for the count of four, hold for the count of four – effectively drawing a box with your breath. As it’s very discreet, I’ve used this many times in meetings and during public speaking events.
SIGH breath – mouth closed, inhale through your nose twice and then a longer exhale through your mouth like a heavy sigh. This one is not as discreet as the box breath but is also very effective.
FIVE SENSES – roll call your fives senses (can be done in your mind, or out loud if appropriate) right now – what can you hear, smell, taste, feel, see?
Panoramic Vision – when we are stressed we go in to tunnel-like vision, focused only on the threat. A way to break this is to consciously open your vision up more broadly, to see beyond what’s right in front of you. It’s the reason why we find landscapes and broad sweeping views so calming and soothing.
If you know you are about to go in to a situation that is likely to trigger a stress response, a work meeting or a challenging conversation with a friend or family member then the above applies and can be done in advance. You may also consider setting an intention of how you’d like to show up and then remind yourself of this as it unfolds. For example: holding the intention of being compassionate, even if you only remember once or twice that’s okay it is likely to still bring in a different outcome.
You may also like to take a quick walk out in nature or listen to a short comedy sketch or beautiful music or a hug and kiss from your family or friends, any of the things that you know uplift you and have you feeling expanded.
Please be mindful that everyone is different, we have different nervous systems, different stress activations and different life experiences, always be gentle with yourself and seek further support and assistance when required.
Lots of love,