How to calm your stress response
When we feel threatened our instinctive response will be to ‘fight, flight or freeze’. This can lead to all sorts of problems as we can overreact, and things then escalate. Here are some tips to help calm your stress response so that you can deal more effectively with life's challenges.
Remember to W.A.I.T - when people feel threatened (regardless as to whether it is real or perceived), their automatic response will be 'fight, flight or freeze'. The key is to recognise when you or another person is in this mode and to slow down your response to the situation. Remember to W.A.I.T. being a useful tripwire as it stands for 'What am I thinking? Why am I talking? This approach brings awareness to your present state of mind and allows you to decide if what you are about to say or do will help or hinder a more productive outcome.
Try Box Breathing - breath into the moment when you feel most like jumping in. Try breathing in slowly counting to 4, hold for 4 and out for 4 (at least twice). Called Box Breathing, it is used by many, including the military and emergency services as a way of calming down the stress response. Spend a few minutes privately doing the Box Breathing exercise before any meeting or conversation that you think might be difficult for you. You can also use it during to centre yourself and avoid merely reacting.
Do a Mind Scan - Another way of calming the mind is to take time to notice the emotion and depersonalise it. For example, replacing 'I feel anxious' with 'There's anxiety'. Mind Scanning is a useful and straightforward technique to learn. It can be applied at any time.
Just find a quiet and private place. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes tuning into your thoughts, notice them objectively then let them go without judgement or self-criticism. Now open your eyes. Reflect on what you have observed. If possible, write down what you have noticed. Is it useful to you? What might be a better emotion? Gently lead your mind in this direction.
It is not about suppressing or punishing yourself – it is a self-compassionate way of acknowledging that all our feelings are valid, but some are not helpful. You can choose how you respond in any given situation. It takes courage and practice so be patient with yourself. After all we only become our thoughts if we act on them.