When last have a few deep breaths rescued you from overwhelm or a confronting situation? Or can you use them in your favour all the time?
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A Few Deep Breaths. Background
We all experience the approach of overwhelm from time to time, don’t we? Be it at work, at home or “on the road”. Often from a build up of tough situations. One’s where we’ve allowed our self talk to have us believe we have run out of options. Can be quite debilitating, can’t it?
I’m sure we’ve all heard the advice to “count to 10 before we explode“. I often hear parents say to a child in a tanstrum – “take a few deep breaths“… We’ve probably all experienced someone blowing their top in a work situation, right? We all know that emotion clouds judgement. And that we usually regret such emotional outbursts later. Particularly when we responded unresourcefully or inappropriately whilst in the fog of that emotion, yes? That’s being human.
However in a business context this is just not cool. Unless we are using it in a (surprise) tactic to drive a certain outcome, for instance in a negotiation.
So (how) can we leverage these few deep breaths as a matter of course?
A Few Deep Breaths. It’s All In The Head
What I’ve learned is that this all plays out in our head. And that the orchestrated development of our self-awareness can allow us to stay in control. No matter what the situation or the intensity of the pressure or confrontation, real or perceived.
I recently worked with a client known to handle difficult sales meetings situations calmly, logically and empathetically. Usually successful in driving great outcomes. But if you were to be aware of the fear driven turmoil in his mind immediately before the meeting starts, you wouldn’t believe it. Almost paralyzed. Sweaty palms. Shortness of breath. High pulse rate. (Probably also high blood pressure). Every time. Anxiety at its best. Yet once he’s in the room and introductions are made he’s simply a different person. Calm, cool and collected. Ready to rock ‘n roll. Hard to imagine the difference.
And so the first vital step was taken. No longer held in the safety of his mind, the issue was out on the table. Ready to be dealt with.
A Few Deep Breaths. How?
We spoke about meditation. Something he had tried and dabbled with in the past, but to no great avail. In my blog Can You Meditate I speak of the centuries old technique of having the mind only to be allowed to focus on our breathing. Because when we focus exclusively on the breath going in and out of the body there can be no thoughts. Which is exactly the point of meditation. Creating a space of no thoughts for a period of time.
You see, unless you for instance have a rabid dog charging towards you, fear isn’t reality- it’s made in your mind. By thoughts. Thoughts you allow. Ones you can control. And so we simply reframed this art of meditation.
Going back to overwhelm being made in the mind, we established that the anxiety he felt before the start were simply fears his mind was making up for him. His results delivery track record once he got over that proved it.
Having just learned that we can displace thoughts by focusing on our breathing, we understood that we can also displace our fears in the same way.
And so we set a goal for him to practice consciously taking a few deep breaths ahead of such meetings or presentations or situations he used to find so challenging. To displace the fears. To take control of his mind. And to psyche himself up into the right positive and constructive energies. I describe this preparation process in Holding the power in the room.
Learning To Apply A Few deep Breaths
What we also learned is that what we (thought we) know often isn’t true until we have had a go with it. I speak about that in To know and not to do is not to know.
Many of us learn best by doing something. I need to understand the why and the what as well as the how before I “get it“. And I sense this client managed to “get this” because he understood why what we were doing could work for him. Logically and practically.
Whether you learn by doing, reflecting, experiencing or thinking (as per the research done by David Kolb) I know that you can find the right approach that works for you. Provided you, like my client, are willing to acknowledge that you are struggling with something so that you can begin to address it.
A Few deep Breaths. So What?
And if the above described anxiety or fears ring true for you, why not consciously choose to develop an awareness when and how such behaviour patterns emerge? And that when they do, that you be deliberate about arresting any such manifestation by allowing a few conscious deep breaths?
Ones that displace any possibility of those age old, tried and tested tricks perfected by your left brain to take hold and influence you?
What if you could?