Breathing Exercises and Other Techniques to Remain Calm

breathing

Just Breathe

If you’re looking to improve your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure, then there are numerous different techniques you can use. One of the most potent is to learn to control your breathing, which can immediately help you to feel calmer and avoid being pushed over into the stress response. In this post, we’ll be looking at some breathing techniques you can employ to stay calm, as well as looking at some other techniques you can use.

Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is a technique from yoga, which essentially requires you to breathe in and out through your nose. While doing this, you maintain your breath for an equal amount of time on the in-wards and out-wards breaths. So you might breathe out for 4 seconds and then breathe in for four seconds.

This helps you to empty your lungs and fill them with fresh oxygen. What’s more, the slow and deep breathing will allow you to trigger your ‘rest and digest’ state which is similar but slightly different to the ‘fight or flight’ state and is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. This is a great way to stave off a anxiety response.

Breathing From the Stomach

Another breathing technique to try is simply to breathe from the stomach as we are naturally designed to do. If you try breathing right now and note whether your stomach or chest moves first, you may well find that you breathe by leading with your chest. This limits the amount of oxygen you can take in with each breath and that can increase stress.

breathing

Instead, breathe by first allowing your abdomen to expand. Use your transverse abdominis and expand your abdominal cavity. This will allow your diaphragm to drop into that space, opening up your lungs. You can then follow by expanding your chest and you’ll have more space in total to take in more oxygen.

Power Positions

Power positions are positions that have been shown by research to trigger the production of testosterone and other positive, stress-fighting hormones. One is the ‘victory pose’. If you simply stand with your arms above you in a ‘V’ shape, as though you had just won a competition, this will increase your production of testosterone, helping you to feel more confident and more driven. Of course it’s best to do this somewhere private before the event you’re nervous about!


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How to Break Down Stress to Get Rid of It

break down stress

When most of us are stressed, it is for a reason. We are stressed for instance because of our work, because of a deadline or because of debt. Knowing what is causing the stress helps us to at least contextualize it and gives us hope that someday we might escape its clutches, but for many of us that is not enough. But if you break that stress down further and if you really get to know it, then you might just find that it starts to come apart and that it becomes much more manageable.

Make Your Stress Smaller by Breaking it Down

The trick is to break down your stress into specific things – into manageable chunks that you can deal with – and then to deal with the constituent parts. So let’s take a look at one of the biggest culprits: work. If your main stressor is work, then chances are that you can break this down further to identify precisely what it is about work that stresses you out. Here are some examples of aspects of our jobs that make us stressed:

  • Looming deadlines
  • Angry bosses
  • Unpleasant colleagues
  • Uncomfortable workspaces
  • Busy, long commutes
  • Things you would rather be doing
  • Wearing work clothes
  • Making calls
  • Speaking in public
  • Having too much to do
break down stress

All these things can make us feel stressed about our jobs and most likely there are a number of these things playing on your mind. But now you’ve broken it all down and you know the specifics, you should find it becomes much easier to start dealing with the problems individually.

For Example

if you have a colleague you don’t like, you could ask to be moved to another part of the office. Likewise, if your workspace is uncomfortable, you could speak to HR about getting a new chair, or you could put a plant on your desk. Don’t like the long commute? How about looking into a lift share, or finding an alternative route. Workload too big? Then again, speak to someone and ask to have it shared!

Likewise, you might find that other ‘big’ stresses in your life can be made easier when you break them down into their smaller constituents. Stressed about debt? Then perhaps one aspect of that is not being able to afford things – in which case writing a budget could help. Another aspect could be worrying about your credit score, in which case you could talk to your bank manager or a debt advisor.

break down stress

Why Stress Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

stress

If you’re trying to breathe and stay calm in more stressful situations and generally remain cooler under pressure, then you’ll often be approaching the idea of stress as something ‘bad’ that you need to ‘fix’ or address. Actually though, this is the wrong way to think about stress and it’s even responsible for some of the issues associated with it. The perception is that stress makes us less confident, less able to make decisions and generally weaker. But the reality couldn’t be further from that. In fact, stress actually makes us much stronger and also improves our performance in various other ways too.

How it Makes You Stronger

When you’re stressed, it triggers your body to release neurotransmitters and hormones which include adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Together, these contribute to pain relief, an increased heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels, increased blood viscosity and tension in the muscles. Blood and oxygen are directed away from the digestive system and immune system and instead they’re directed to your muscles and brain. This makes you faster and stronger and therefore better able to escape danger or confront it head on. What’s more is that it improves your focus and alertness and improves your ability to act quickly and respond to threats. If you’re in a fight then, or an athletic contest – stress can actually help you to perform better and achieve more.

How Stress Motivates Us

At the same time, stress has the positive effect of motivating us. An example of this might be when we’re studying, at which point it’s often anxiety that makes us revise more or double check our work. The same goes for interviews and any other scenario where the outcome relies on us putting in work. This type of positive motivating stress is called ‘eustress’ and people tend to be more successful if they experience this to a good degree.

stress

The key then is not to completely eradicate stress but rather to control it. By being able to dictate when you become anxious and how much stress you experience, you can thereby improve your ability to stay while at the same time tapping into the heightened strength, speed and intelligence that comes from a stress response. Next time you find yourself feeling anxious, don’t try to fight it (which will only make you more stressed ironically) but instead lean into it and channel it!


Soothing Tools

Can You Make Short-Term Sacrifices to Achieve Long-Term Success?

Short-Term Sacrifices

Short-Term Sacrifice?

No matter who you are, if you have any goals worth having, you are going to spend some time achieving them. Any goal that is actually going to bring you success will almost certainly take a long time to realize. There are no shortcuts in life.

But in order to get that long-term success, you almost always have to make short-term sacrifices. If you want to retire with $250,000 by age 60, then you need to start saving $500 a month from the age of 20. If you want to have cake left over at the end of the week for you to enjoy then you aren’t going to be able to eat the entire thing in one setting. Short-term sacrifices are a vital part of achieving your goals and most people have trouble with them. But if you follow these tips, you may be able to make these short-term sacrifices without as much effort as you normally would have to make.

Short-Term Sacrifices
  1. Create a list of short-term sacrifices you might expect to make as you are striving for your goals. Include everything that you think you might have to give up.
  2. Decide whether or not you will have to give these things up temporarily or permanently.  
  3. Look at each one individually. Determine whether or not you are willing to give those things up in order to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to lose weight you may have to give up Chinese buffets.
  4. Do this first with the permanent ones. For example, someone who is trying to become clean and sober will have to give up drinking or using drugs recreationally and it may mean that they will never be able to use narcotics even when they should be prescribed.
  5. Look at the things that you may have to give up temporarily. For example, if your plan is to open a business at the end of the year, you may have to give up going to the movies or eating out for that year.
  6. Make sure that you use the things that you are giving up temporarily as rewards. So, if you use the business goal as an example, if you were able to achieve your goals like choosing inventory, finishing your business plan or some other goal that moved your forward, use things like eating out and movies as a reward for your hard work.

How to Become Socially Fearless With Hypothesis Testing

fearless

What is Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing is a concept taken from cognitive behavioural therapy and that involves testing a negative ‘hypothesis’ in order to disprove your fears and help you to overcome an illogical anxiety. This is a technique that you can use to absolutely smash through limiting fears and it can be perfectly targeted towards destroying social anxiety.

How it Works

When you’re afraid of something or something causes anxiety,then normally this is linked to some kind of belief about what will happen. We are not afraid of heights – we are afraid of falling. Likewise, we are anxious in social situations because we think we might stutter, we might get shouted at, or we might make a fool of ourselves. This is the ‘hypothesis’. Hypothesis testing then involves proving how unlikely this is to yourself. In the case of a social phobia, you can do this by simply facing your worst case scenario to see what actually happens.

Putting it Into Practice

Afraid you’ll make a fool of yourself in public and get laughed at? The reality is that most people are kind and understanding. If you actually do stutter or make a mistake people will generally turn a blind eye and be compassionate. You probably know this already on a conscious level, so all that’s left to do is to prove it to yourself so that you believe it on every level. This is where hypothesis testing comes into play and to do tis you’re going to actually make a fool of yourself on purpose.

So find a shop where you don’t visit regularly, go up to the till and then purposefully stutter and act shy and confused. Chances are you’ll be absolutely terrified while doing this but if you can get through it, you’ll find that in 99% of cases, the assistant simply overlooks your struggles and is perfectly polite. And once you’ve done that, you can do it again and again and you’re likely to find the exact same thing happening each time.

hypothesis testing

Of course you might have to build up to this if you’re too scared to begin with. Start by occasionally letting yourself stutter in conversation with friends and then in public. Perhaps try speaking to more strangers over time and generally you can gradually teach yourself that there are much worse things than not sounding perfectly eloquent all the time! People will go easy on you – so make sure you go easy on yourself too.


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Why Motivation Doesn’t Matter

motivation

Motivation for Success?

You may think that motivation is the key to success. Many people do, and that’s why so many people fail at their goals. Motivation is a fickle friend. It’s sort of like the classic literary muse. Sometimes it is there, guiding you along, and sometimes it is as elusive as a breath of fresh air in a fire. Thus, if you wait until you are motivated, you are never going to achieve your goals.

So, what is a person to do then? How do you reach your goals if you aren’t motivated to do so? There is only one way that you can make it through the times when you don’t feel motivated and that is by committing to something and sticking to it.

It is very easy to complete tasks and work on your success when you feel motivated. When you are motivated, every task seems easy and every goal seems achievable. However, when you are not motivated, every task seems like total drudgery. Your goals seem like they will never be realized. When those times come and you cannot conjure up enough motivation to get you through the tasks that you have set for yourself, that’s when you need to sit down and remember the commitments that you have made to yourself.

What if I Lost My Motivation?

There are a couple of steps before that which will help you when the time comes to use commitment to proceed. First, you have to teach yourself that commitment is important, even if it is to yourself. Most people have a habit of breaking commitments to themselves and so it is not a big deal when they do it again. You need to convince yourself that making a promise to yourself is just as important as a promise you make to someone else.You also need to have the commitments laid out and on paper in advance. You aren’t going to be able to use the commitment to force yourself to complete your tasks if you don’t know what they are. Make sure that your commitments are written down somewhere.

motivation
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The bottom line is that you recognize that you are going to have times when motivation isn’t enough, and when that happens, you are going to want to have a plan of action and pre-recorded commitments so that you can push through when you don’t feel like working and get the things that you need done accomplished.


How House Plants Can Reduce Your Stress

house plants

Want a quick hack that can improve your stress and help your health in a number of other ways? Then just get some plants and put them around your home! Plants in your home have been shown in countless studies to be highly effective for improving mood and general health and there are a number of reasons for this. Read on and we’ll examine why house plants are so useful for stress levels and how you can benefit from them.

The Effect of Plants on Stress

It has been known for a while now that having plants around can improve the mood of an environment. Research has shown, that plants help to combat stress, depression and other negative emotions. In fact, many businesses are encouraged to add plants to their office environments in order to build staff motivation. Studies show that having plants help their staff deal with large workloads and to combat feelings of stress.

So what’s going on?

Well, the effect harkens back to our days in the wild. When we were still evolving, we would have had to seek our vegetation in order to stay alive. In the African savanna, seeing large patches of green would have meant that we had found areas rich in natural resources. Here we would be able to find food, shelter, hydration and nourishment.

As such, it seems that we still have a similar response to seeing plants. Our bodies still respond by engaging our ‘rest and digest’ state via parasympathetic nervous system activation. Our heart rates slow down and we become more relaxed. Even just seeing the color green has been shown to have this effect!

house plants

Other Effects

house plants

There are other benefits of having house plants around too. One is that they can help to improve creativity. This is a byproduct of increased restfulness – and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we are at our most creative when we’re more relaxed. This way we lose the ‘tunnel vision’ that comes from stress and focus and instead we’re able to explore different ideas and alternative solutions to problems. Having plants around helps us to get into this state of mind and thus helps us discover more novel and creative solutions to our problems.

Plants can also help to boost our general health by cleaning the air and increasing oxygen. This has again been shown in several studies and it has been suggested that we should keep a few plants around for every family member to improve air quality.


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Three Common Causes of Stress in Your Life and How to Deal With Them

causes of stress

What Causes Stress?

One way to tackle stress is to improve your health, your energy levels and your mood. By doing these things, you can help yourself to become more resilient and hardy to stress and you can avoid letting the smaller things bog you down. But that’s a fairly abstract way to combat anxiety that doesn’t always have an immediate effect.

The other route to take then is to look at the specific causes of stress in your life – the stressors – and to remove them. Some of these will be big and some of them will be small, but all of them contribute to raising blood pressure and making us feel a little less calm and relaxed. The problem is, many of us can’t put our fingers on exactly what it is that is causing us stress and even when we do, it’s not always obvious how we can deal with the problems.

causes of stress

Read on then and we will look at some of the most common causes of stress and at what you can do to deal with them once and for all…

The Commute Cause of Stress

Did you know that the only ‘universal fear’ is things heading towards you? Thus, walking to work and having hundreds of people moving the other way down the street is pretty much a recipe for stress – especially if you’re running late or if you have a long way to travel.

One solution then is to avoid the rush hour. You can do this by speaking with your employer and asking them to give you more flexible working hours: perhaps you could work 8am-4pm for instance instead of 9am-5pm? Alternatively, look at other ways of getting in, like cycling. Or just arrive a little early!

‘Open Loops’

Many of us have lots of niggling jobs and stresses in the back of our minds that contribute to our stress. For instance, you might need to call your relative. Or maybe you have a bill to pay. These are what are known as ‘open loops’ and they can drain us of energy, focus and positivity. The solution is to deal with each of them as soon as possible rather than letting them drag on.

The Money Cause of Stress

Money is a huge stress for many of us and can cause many a sleepless night.

The solution? Creating a budget. Budgets show us how much we’re losing and where and allow us to formulate a plan to get back on top. What you will often find is that simply cancelling some of your recurring bills and changing your lifestyle a little can make a big difference and help you to get back in the black.


Stress Mangement Tools

Stress-Free Stress Management Checklist

stress check list

Looking to improve your stress levels?

Ironically, stress management can end up being stressful in itself! Knowing you have a problem with stress is of course the first step towards getting better but it also means you now know you have a problem… and it means you have a long road stretched out in front of you to ‘recovery’.

If only there were a stress-free way to manage stress… like a checklist for instance!

Do You Have a Stress Addiction?

The first point of order is to consider the possibility that you may have a stress addiction. Unlikely though it may sound, stress addictions are common as we find ourselves unable to pull away from work and other high intensity activities.

* If you ‘thrive under pressure’ and if you can never take time off, you may well have a stress addiction.

* If you feel bored and fidgety when you’re unwinding, you may have a stress addiction

* If your friends and family complain that they never get to see you, this is a sign of a stress addiction

* If you feel constantly ‘wired’ then you may have a stress addiction.

The first step to overcoming stress then is to recognize that you may feel it’s difficult to change these habits: but you must in order to gain freedom from stress.


Identifying Your Stressors

A good place to start when tackling stress is to look at your stressors. Stressors are things that cause stress and these can include things like work and debt. At the same time though, they can also include slightly smaller things in many cases.

Common stressors include…

– Impending deadlines

– Calls you need to make and don’t have time for

– Angry bosses

– Awkward colleagues

– Friends or partners who are angry with you

– Arguments

– The commute to work

– Untidy homes

– Health problems

– Inability to pay bills/debt

stress management

What you’ll notice is that some of these things are rather small and easy while others are big and abstract. A good place to start is by dealing with the smaller problems that you can tackle more easily. You might also be able to break down bigger problems into smaller issues.

For instance ‘work’ can actually mean:

– Awkward colleagues

– Bad bosses

– Uncomfortable working environments

– Unpleasant commute

– Painful working hours

– Large workloads

– Impending deadlines

So even if you can’t change your job, you may be able to deal with some of these specifics. Where will you start?


Good Habits
for Stress Management

A lot of these problems wouldn’t occur if you were to use good stress/time management habits.

Here are some good examples:

stress mangement
Stress Man. Businessman suffers from a headache

* Little and often – instead of letting your dishes pile up, try tackling them sooner so that they never build up to that level.

* The pomodoro technique – are you prone to procrastination? Get around this tendency by using the pomorodo technique: segregating your working hours into periods of work and rest using a timer.

* The 80/20 law – if you’re self-employed, you might find that 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients. Cut the rest.

* Close open loops – don’t let things continue to stress you out over the long term. If you have a call to make, make it sooner and ‘close the loop’.


Lifestyle Changes for Stress Management

You should also apply these lifestyle changes to make stress easier to cope with:

1. Make sure you sleep well by going to bed at a similar time every day, by having 30 minutes to calm down with a book and by relaxing into bed

2. Make sure you give yourself breaks and holidays occasionally! No one should work 365 days a year!

3. Exercise – exercise improves stress and energy in numerous ways.

4. Eat healthily

5. Wake up with a daylight lamp, not a blaring alarm!


Dealing With Acute Stress with Mangement Tools

Finally, try to learn to deal with acute stress.

Some things that can help here include:

* Breathing more slowly which will activate the parasympathetic nervous system

* Learning mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy

* Reminding yourself of why you shouldn’t be stressed

* Removing yourself from the situation

There you have it: you now have all the tools and know-how to begin your move towards a stress-free life!


Other Soothing Tools

Prioritize More if you Want to be Successful

priorities

Why does Organization help Success?

When you want to be successful, you have to prioritize. This often means that some things get overlooked and unfortunately, sometimes they are things that you don’t want to overlook. But you have to make sacrifices if you want to achieve your goals and that means deciding what is most important, and working on it first and foremost.

The reason for this is simple: we want too many things. Human beings are famous for wanting too much. It’s like our motto, especially here in America. More, more, more. This is true in the food that we eat, it is true of the things that we buy and it is true of the money that we make. Of course, it is also true of the things that drive us and the goals that we have, and that’s not a bad thing.

The Problem

The problem is, when you have too many things that you want to accomplish, you aren’t going to have time for them all, and unless you prioritize, you are probably going to end up doing the things that are the most fun rather than the things that are the most important.

Example

Let’s look at an example of this. Meet Richard. Richard is trying to make a list of the things that he wants to accomplish over the next five years. Here is what he has written down.

  • Learn 5 new languages (1 per year) – Spanish, German, American Sign Language, French and Italian
  • Learn how to play musical instruments like a pro – first guitar and then piano
  • Learn how to do my own taxes and keep track of business taxes
  • Start my own business – some kind of retail store that is unique and fills a need
  • Volunteer more – do some church work, homeless shelters, give to charity
  • Become more organized so that I never miss appointments and always know where stuff is
  • Lose 50 pounds and get in shape like I was when I was in my 30’s
prioritize

We’ll stop here because you probably get the idea. Richard wants to do so many things, but accomplishing them will take up far too much time. For example, learning a new language in a year will take about 30-45 minutes each and every day. If you added up all of his stuff just from this partial list, half the day would be gone.

That’s why prioritizing is vital. If you cannot choose what is most important and work on it first and most often, you are going to accomplish very little.


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