Whether at work, school, home, or any social setting, feelings of stress, anger, fear and anxiety can severely impact our ability to have a meaningful, productive and satisfying experience.
In my book “The Reflex – Activate Thoughts, Words and Actions to Achieve Your Goals” I explain how stress is a conditioned, reflexive response pattern that can be interrupted and overwritten. Below are two techniques to achieve this in public.
- Hold Your Breath. Take as slow and deep a breath as you can without drawing attention to yourself, and hold it until you feel the pressure build in your lungs, chest and ribs. Now hold a bit longer than you think you are able, then slowly exhale. Repeat 2-4 times. No, it is not necessary to fill your cheeks with air so you look like a Puffer Fish. *If there is any medical/health reason why you should not be holding your breath for over 20 seconds, which will initially increase your blood pressure, then use the following alternative method.
*Take a slow deep breath, hold for 1 second and exhale. Repeat 5-10 times.
Why it Works
Both versions of holding your breath increase your carbon dioxide levels. Applied this way, carbon dioxide has a mild sedating effect, which for most people is immediately calming and reduces tension. It also breaks the neurochemical process that the stress response depends on, in that it counters the adrenalized Fight or Flight response associated with stress. In addition, the tension that develops as a result of holding your breath, helps relax the nerve receptors in your muscle tissue, which helps break the physical stress/tension reflex.
- Sing A Song. Place your attention on choosing a song that immediately produces a happy or silly feeling inside of you. There is no right or wrong and no risk of exposure, as it will be safely contained in your head and heart. Whatever song produces a little smirk or smile – that’s the one! As your feelings of anxiety and stress emerge, begin silently singing your song and keep your attention there until your stressful feelings begin to subside. Think of this as a mini intervention that quickly disrupts your stress cycle.
Why it Works
Those feelings attached to your song, which produced that smile, will increase the production of endorphins – your body’s “feel good” chemicals. You see, the body cannot simultaneously support 2 conflicting emotions. You cannot feel both hate and compassionate, show humility while yelling or screaming, or feel stress and calm at the same time. Endorphins help “turn off” stress and anxiety chemicals through their analgesic effect. Endorphins accomplish this by interacting with the brain’s opiate receptors, yielding results similar to morphine – minus the addiction.
Additionally, while silently singing your song, your nervous system governed by the rhythm and timing circuits of the brain, are coordinating with the melodic rhythm and timing of the song. When rhythm and timing brain circuits are consistent, such as to the beat of a metronome, song or repetitious cadence, they produce a very calm, clear-headed effect. This is why guided meditation is mostly spoken in a very even, rhythmic cadence.
Dipping into a bit of brain science, we learn actions that make us smile and feel good such as silently singing a personal “feel good” song, engages the part of the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex that supports empathy and compassion, which opposes the fight or flight chemical response from the other half of the medial prefrontal cortex that is responsible for anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, burnout and other ego-driven, inwardly focused reflexive responses.
Managing your stress, anxiety, anger and fear in public is as simple as Holding Your Breath, and Singing A Song.
Chris Weiler is a published author, speaker, consultant, strength trainer and performance expert to athletes, Fortune 500’s and YOU!