Our stress level is a built in meter, a gauge much like the indicator on your car telling you that it’s overheating. A warning signal that pressure is building, starting to boil over. This could be a deadline at work, something that’s out of your control like road rage, or that high credit card bill. Stress originates in the brain and then signals the nerves of the body, to ready itself for the classic “fight-or-flight” response.
What then results is sweating of the brow, as the heart begins to pound and the blood pressure rises. The breathing then becomes shallow and rapid, as all of the muscles in the body begin to tense. This is a natural chain reaction to stress. This stress response, is instinctive and quick to elevate. So what’s needed, is using mindful stress relieving techniques.
Once stress does begin to rise, it can get out of control and it becomes difficult to calm yourself down. What’s clinically proven however, is there are ways to reduce this stress response once it kicks in. This by interfering with a series of brain networks, which can calm things down at its source.
Pinpoint When The Stress Begins
If there’s any type of stress, what the amygdala does is takes over the brain, this to prepare it for the fight-or-flight response. This is a primitive “auto-pilot” impulse, this when our ancestors were faced with real life or death situations, such as fighting a sabre tooth tiger.
What then happens, is the breathing becomes rapid, as the body begins to clam up. This response is an instantaneous instinctive reaction, that’s caused by the brain chemicals adrenaline and cortisol shooting through the veins.
So the key, becomes knowing and practicing by monitoring the initial signs of the stress response, such as when the shoulders begin to tense up, and realizing this before the brain becomes hijacked.
Deep Rhythmic Breathing Using The 5-2-6 Technique
What mindfully controlled slow rhythmic breathing does, is it activates the vagus nerve, which travels through the body, and links the brain to all the major organs such as the heart, lungs, and gut.
What the vagus nerve does, is it slows down the activated fight-or-flight response, reversing the body back to its previous relaxed state, which is known as “rest and digest.”
The way to activate this, is by performing the 5-2-6 breathing technique. Once stress occurs:
• Begin breathing deeply in and out for 5 seconds
• Hold your breath for a count of 2 seconds
• Then exhale while breathing out through the mouth or nostrils for 6 seconds
Describe What You See
Describe verbally or in your mind, 3 things that you can immediately see or imagine in front of you. Describe its size, color, shape, and texture. For instance, “a small fluffy brown puppy jumping.”
This can be done wherever you are, indoors or outdoors. What doing so does is it mindfully snaps your attention back to the present moment. What it does, is eliminates the worry and fear that’s associated with what may happen in the immediate future.
Describing what you mindfully see, does is disengages the setting in the brain, which gets activated once you begin to feel stress. What it does, is it distracts the brain, allowing it to ruminate.
Look At Nature Images
What looking at pictures of nature, such as a calm serene forest with a creek running through it, or an image of your pets or farm animals, does is it helps the brain and the heart recover quicker, when experiencing stress.
This is based on a study of University students, who were all stressed out because of an extremely difficult exam. They were all told soon after the exam, that they all performed poorly.
What the researchers then did, was divided the participants into two separate groups. The first group was shown images of a forest with a stream, this in a park like setting.
The second group was shown a busy hectic urban scene with congested chaotic traffic, where a crowd of people were shoving and pushing.
Those who were exposed to the serene image, had a quicker cardiovascular recovery, which resulted in lower blood pressure and heart rate. Those who were shown the image of the congested city street, all reacted slower.
So the key becomes, once you begin to feel stress, intercept the response by viewing a serene image on your computer, or look outdoors provided there’s a peaceful forest like setting. This to calm yourself down.
Channel The Stress Into Excitement
Instead of attempting to control the raging impulse that is stress, and trying to calm it down, attempt to harness that built up energy and the various stress chemicals, by funneling it towards helping you stay focused, motivated, or remaining to working harder.
Think about the passion that you have for the task at hand, or the ideas that you’re attempting to convey, this without becoming overwhelmed or flustered.
The key becomes to reinterpreting the stress or the feeling of anxiety, by channeling it as excitement and a challenge.
This could be when needing to make a speech. Begin by generating positive feelings about communicating well, getting your point across with humor, this rather than attempting to calm the nerves down.
Mindfully Stand Erect
What standing erect and upright does, is naturally makes you feel more confident. Physiologically, what it does is decreases the levels of stress hormones in the body.
Those who are in a constant forward slouch posture, this while performing some type of high-pressure task, are known to have more negative based feelings, than those who are consciously sitting or standing upright.
What studies show, is that standing in an upright posture, does is increases testosterone, while simultaneously decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What this combination does, is it forces you to feel less anxious, while being more assertive and confident.
Clench Then Release Your Right Fist Several Times
What clenching your right hand does, is it activates motion in the left side of the brain, which is known to be more verbal and logical thinking. The right side of the brain, is more emotional and executive.
So when beginning to feel stress, fear, or anxiety, which are all right brain functions, what activating your left brain by clenching the right fist does, is forces you to calm down.