Heart Rate: 104 BPM
Blood Pressure: 140/90
If these numbers look too familiar to you, then you need to slow down.
I know, you must have heard that line a thousand times from a thousand people.
The thing is, staying calm under pressure is easier said than done. This is especially true when the stakes are high and your future depends on it. Whatever “it” is.
Sometimes, you wish someone would just tell you HOW.
Unfortunately, we’re always at the mercy of that thing called DNA.
Fight or Flight? How About… Neither!
Sure, this survival mechanism enabled our Neanderthal predecessors to outlive catastrophes and wild predators, making way for our Homo Sapien ancestors.
But in this modern age, there are no rocks to throw or wood hammers to pound on enemies. No trees to climb or caves to enter for safety, either.
The adversary has taken on a different form as well. Wild animals and volcanic eruptions have been replaced by stress and the pressure of everyday living.
And so, adapt we must.
When difficult circumstances arouse panic in you, there are 5 tools you can use to combat it. These are tried, tested, and proven to the point of being cliché. Which can only mean one thing: They work.
1. Mindful Meditation
This ritual aims to quiet your mind and ease your body of tension by focusing on basic and mundane things.
It usually starts with a breathing exercise wherein you direct all your attention to your breath. Inhale, exhale. Notice how the air enters your nostrils and exits your mouth. Listen to the sound each breath makes.
In the beginning, you might get distracted by other sounds or sudden movements in your environs. But with practice, you will learn to ignore them.
When that time comes, you can graduate to mindfully meditating on other sounds, such as rustling leaves and footsteps on the pavement outside, or objects like the chair you’re sitting on and the patterns on the flooring.
Carving out half an hour a day, at the most, to perform this type of meditation will do wonders to your cluttered and confused brain.
2. Positive Thinking
Did you know that when Tinkerbell wasn’t around to sprinkle her magic dust on him, Peter Pan could fly on his own, just by thinking happy thoughts?
So can you. Flying symbolizes being free of cares and woes, even for just a few minutes. And when negative thoughts brought about by present circumstances start to weigh you down, upbeat reflections can make you feel lighter.
Wherever you experience stress the most, surround it with items that remind you of good times. Picture frames of your loved ones, your favorite childhood Christmas gift, the keychain you bought on that first out-of-town trip with your best friend.
Take time to dwell on the memories associated with these things. Allow your happy thoughts to take you to your happy place.
Once your anxiety wears off, you’ll be recharged to tackle the challenge in front of you.
3. Expressing Gratitude
Gratitude journals are a craze nowadays, but you don’t need a special time, place, or notebook to recognize all the wonderful things in your life.
In the middle of your hectic day, just when you’re being overwhelmed, stay right where you are and take a deep breath. Then, look around you. I mean, really look.
Give thanks for every person in the room, for the opportunity to do something worthwhile, and for being busy rather than bored. Feel it in your heart and think it in your mind.
Making this a habit will reduce your cortisol levels, which results in less frazzled nerves. And when you’re less nervous, you’ll be more grateful. It’s a cycle no doubt, but a good one.
The Lamaze method of giving birth is based on the principle of relaxation. It combines a breathing technique with visualization to induce the muscles to slacken and release tension leading to a gradual reduction in labor pains.
It is for the same reason that child psychologists encourage parents to give their kids time out when they’re throwing tantrums. It’s not a punishment, rather, a way to remove children from the source of their angst.
You, too, can take five. Leave the war room and go somewhere quiet, even if the bathroom is the only available space where you can be alone.
Close your eyes and transport yourself to a peaceful place, however, you define it to be. If the mountains are your zone of solace, let your imagination take you there. Or in the middle of a calm lake, if that’s what you prefer.
Use your senses to revel in the experience. Take in the details of the tastes, the sounds, the sights, and the scents. Be very creative. Allow yourself to escape to your place of refuge.
When you feel a smile curving your mouth upwards, you can open your eyes and go back to the battlefield.
5. Objectify the Source of Your Anxiety
Many times, we believe that we’re stressed because of someone or something. It could be the boss who is difficult to please or the client with very high standards. Maybe it’s a major project proposal you’re tasked to present or a looming deadline.
In reality, it’s your reaction to the situation that’s making you anxious. You think you’re not ready. Insecurity chips at your confidence. You’re almost sure of failure.
Okay, stop right there. Face a blank wall. And make your stress come to life.
Dissect it. How does it look? Does it have a smell? Shape it, color it, name it. Give it eyes and ears but not a mouth.
And then, speak to it very kindly. Ask it to stay where it is. Make it nod in agreement. Then leave it there.
This simple exercise is powerful and effective because it allows you to separate yourself from your stress, which has now become a distinct being by itself. It may exist, but is no longer a part of you.
How do you calm your stormy days? Have you invented mental hacks of your own? Let me know and share it with the world! The box below is yours.