This week I had an unexpected opportunity to put some of the stress and anxiety reducing techniques in my Anxiety Solutions Toolkit into practice.
On Wednesday morning my Website was hacked and the content trashed. My initial reaction was of shock and anger. Recognising the signs of acute stress, I spent a couple of minutes just breathing deeply.
Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the fastest ways to change your emotional state. It automatically triggers the relaxation response – and switches off the stress response, calming you down. The breathing method I used was the 7-11 breathing pattern.
After a couple of minutes the emotional intensity I was experiencing had dropped significantly and I’d regained access to my ‘thinking brain.’ However my head was full of negative self-talk such as: ‘This is a complete disaster!’, ‘You’ll have to start from scratch,’ ‘This will cost a fortune to fix,’ etc.
Self-talk or the continuous 'running commentary' in our head corresponds to tiny movements in the tongue, in which the tongue is 'saying' the words of our internal monologue. When we relax the tongue or stop it from moving, the inner monologue ceases. So I held by tongue still by placing, and holding, its tip on the roof of my mouth for a couple of minutes (How to quieten the running commentary in your head).
This gave me enough mental space to ask myself ‘What’s another way of interpreting this situation?’ The reality is that there are always many different ways of interpreting a situation, but in this instance my mind had simply defaulted to a catastrophic interpretation.
It’s easy to get caught in negative thought patterns when a powerful emotion has been triggered. We replay the situation over and over, reliving it and experiencing the feelings again as though they just happened. We can get caught on this cycle for days, weeks or months. My immediate goal was to focus my thoughts and attention on something positive and productive, rather than spinning negative thoughts about a past event which I couldn’t change.
How we interpret (or ‘frame’) events is a key factor in determining how we respond to them. We all know people who make the best of the worst and the worst of the best. ‘Reframing’ is the act of taking a situation, event, interaction etc you feel negatively about and changing how you view, and thus, feel about it. There will always be at least one positive reframing opportunity.
My positive reframe was that I’d been presented with an ideal opportunity to review the content of my website and to make some long overdue updates. Had the hacking happened on any other day of the week I wouldn’t have had the time to fix things up, so I pointed out to myself that I was lucky the event had happened on Wednesday. I also told reminded myself that because I had a backup of the page contents I didn’t have to start from scratch.
If you'd like to practice re-framing a good place to start is with this free online Reframing tool, Reframe Now.
Next I focused on recreating the most important pages first, the pages where people interact with me and have the ability to book coaching sessions. This meant that once these pages were in place and ‘live’ I felt a lot more in control of the situation. The perception of control is a biggie when it comes to managing stress. The more we perceive we’re in control of the situation the lower our stress level.
After a morning of focused work I took a break and went for an hour’s walk. This helped me to get some distance from problem and to practice some mindful walking – focusing on what I sensed in the environment around me as I walked. As an added bonus this exercise helped release ‘feel good’ endorphins. Yeh!
By Wednesday evening I was feeling mentally tired but I wasn’t going to miss my Base Jump Improvisation class because, I knew there were a whole heap of laughs in store for me. The http://www.basejumpimprov.co.nz/health benefits of laughter have been widely researched. Laughter can lift our mood in seconds and has been proven to reduce stress and aid recovery from illness. In one study, Dr Lee Berk and his team at Loma Linda University in California ran tests on the effects of watching funny videos in relation to reducing stress.
The tests showed that thirty minutes after watching funny videos, cortisol was down 67%, adrenaline was down 35%.
As the great philosopher William James said, “We don’t laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.”
By late Thursday afternoon my website was repaired, updated and on-line. To be able to achieve this, I’d successfully controlled the initial acute stress I'd experienced, and applied some easy to use, effective techniques from my Anxiety Solutions Toolkit. These ensured I continued to perform at my best while under pressure.
I reflected that after a storm there's often a rainbow and the promise of a pot of gold.
To recap here are the steps I took. I:
- recognised I was experiencing acute stress
- breathed (diaphragmatic)
- stopped the catastrophic self-talk
- reframed (reinterpreted) the situation in a more positive way
- focused on the important tasks to increase my sense of control
- did an hour’s mindful walking and got some exercise and fresh air
- took time out for laughter
These techniques are just a fraction of those in my Anxiety Solutions Toolkit. If you’d like to learn more about how you can control stress and perform under pressure I’d love to have a chat.
I help people to develop personal mastery so they can achieve the success, health and happiness they desire. In particular I help people to reduce distress and anxiety and avoid chronic stress. If you'd like to explore how I can help you, let's talk. You can contact me on 021 056 8389 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week,
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise is in helping people perform under pressure and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.