Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying– “I’m too busy to relax!” when you’re stressed and you remember that leadership/mindfulness/stress management course you went on. Or when a colleague, trying to be helpful, suggests that you slow down or just relax a little? Part of you knows you should try, but the rest of you is so caught up in the momentum that it seems absolutely impossible …
And yet we know that the state of stress and tension is a low-performance state. Not only do we get irritable and physically jumpy, but by diverting blood from the front parts of the brain, stress literally makes us less intelligent – even stupid (“Aaagh! Why did I say that?!).
Can you imagine Roger Federer going out onto the court for a grand-slam final and working himself up into a state of stress and tension, gripping his racket tightly, shaking a clenched fist and yelling at his opponent “Go on then, you b*****d, hit the ball at me!!”.
Professional sports people know that their highest performance state is not stressed or anxious, but that state of dynamic relaxation call ‘Flow’, and they focus on achieving this and entering ‘The Zone’ before each event. Even professional rugby players don’t beat their heads against the wall any more before a game.
At the same time, we know that to use our mind to control our body can only make things worse – ever tried to tell yourself “I should relax more. I must relax more!!”?
Stress is a physical phenomenon involving our neurophysiological selves. The mind lives in the past or the future, creating stories about what has happened or what will happen that can be positive or negative depending on a whole load of internal and external factors.
But the body lives only in the present. So, to manage the body, we can use the body. Here’s how:
- Sense the feeling of your feet on the floor, or your legs on the chair if you’re sitting down. Not only does this immediately bring you to the present moment, it also releases your energy from that tight knot in your head or chest and earths it, allowing things to flow healthily again.
- Allow yourself a ‘low’ breath – it is neurophysiologically impossible to be tense if you are using low, or diaphragmatic, breathing.
- Go into Peripheral Vision. Look at the person or an object in front of you and allow yourself to become aware of what is behind it and around it … If you don’t know this technique have a look at the relevant video on lead-direct.com
These techniques will enable you to be aware of yourself in your surroundings, and then to connect with your purpose. This means that you can deal with what is actually going on in the real world, rather than the negative hallucination that “pulls your strings” when things are getting on top of you.
Only when you can flow with events as they happen can you lead yourself and others effectively and positively to your goal.