Ever been in a situation where you are so stressed that you can’t think? Of course you have – exams for example. You’ve studied hard and know all the answers, then the nerves cut in and the questions become hieroglyphics… our brains seem to abandon us when we need them most! Well, that’s exactly what happens and if it didn’t humans would have gone extinct long ago. When we are in danger we need instinct and reflexes, not intellect. This is our ‘fight or flight ‘response. It’s fantastic at keeping us alive but it hasn’t had time to evolve to differentiate between potential death and the demands of modern life. So what can we do?
“What gets measured gets managed”.
This is a great quote and it usually applies to business or engineering, but I like to apply it to stress.
Answer this question:
“On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 is totally relaxed and 10 is extreme panic – how stressed are you right now?” A number will present itself.
In all my years as a stress consultant, I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t give me a clear number. You’re below 7 right now, if you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Now, I want you to ask yourself this question constantly throughout the day. Very soon, you will see your stress as a number rather than just a feeling.
We are analogue machines so our readings are constantly changing. We need to try to keep the number away from the high end and around the middle – this is called the ‘Flow Zone’.
When we go into fight or flight the Sympathetic side of our Autonomic Nervous System is engaged. Our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase to oxygenate our muscles. We are then producing the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’. This process is designed to last a short period, any longer and it’s bad for our health.
To counterbalance this we need to employ our Parasympathetic system. We do this by producing Oxytocin also known as the ‘Love Hormone’. Cortisol and Oxytocin have a distinct relationship, as one goes up the other comes down.
We can promote the production of Oxytocin by breathing out longer than we breathe in.
Next time you are stressed, make a note of your stress reading. Sit down and breathe out for the count of 12. Really empty your lungs, pause and then breathe in for the count of 5. Repeat this a few more times but stop if you get dizzy. Note your level again. The number will have diminished.
If your reading is high for a sustained period, chew a good quality gum, it’s great at reducing stress levels. When we were cavemen we only chewed when we were safe and it still has a calming effect on our physiology today.
Stress techniques are fantastic but knowing when to employ them and having a gauge as to their effectiveness is key! What we measure we can manage!
About the expert
Karl Rollison is an internationally renowned Harley Street therapist, life coach, author, stress consultant and hypnotherapist. He is also a 3rd Dan Martial Arts and Women’s self-defence instructor. He noticed a distinct correlation between his fearful students and his stress-out clients, this lead to his first book ‘Stress Ninja’. Karl has also worked at the sharp end of some of the biggest investment banks and financial institutions in the world. It is fair to say that he is an expert on stress from both sides of the fence! To find out more visit karlrollison.com