It is a fact that, if you are human, at some point in your life the sh*t will hit the fan. If you’re a parent the odds are even higher. And if you’re a mother, let’s be honest, sometimes the shit will hit the fan more than once a day. #truth
While the sh*t hits the fan in our house quite regularly (I have 3 young kids after all!), something happened a few weeks ago that involved one of my children that was a little more serious. Read the whole story here.
In the lead up to this I had been practising 5 strategies to train my brain for when the sh*t hits the fan, because at some point it definitely will… and it did!
Below is one of these exercises. I encourage you to read the purpose of these exercises and how to practice them effectively by reading the introduction to this series prior to getting into the exercise.
Exercise 1: Breathe
I mean breathe intentionally.
Take deep, conscious, deliberate belly breaths that you can feel going into your nose, raising your belly (not your chest), and exiting out of your nose or mouth.
This will do several things, but the following are two of the most important ones:
1. DEEP BELLY BREATHS WILL RELAX YOU
When we are stressed we take shorter breaths into the chest. This activates our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which sends messages to the brain to suggest we are in danger. Our fight, flight or freeze response then kicks in, which can lead to, or increase, feelings of anxiety and panic.
Deep diaphragmatic (abdominal belly) breaths will activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which does the opposite; it relaxes you and calms your body and mind = CHILL.
2. DEEP BELLY BREATHS WILL BRING YOU INTO THE PRESENT MOMENT
Breathing consciously and deliberately means we can’t help but be in the here and now. When we are truly present we can’t focus on our stress or anxiety. In fact, the present-moment-master Eckhart Tolle says it is impossible to be present and stressed at the same time.
Being present gives us the opportunity to become mindful of our current situation and react consciously, rather than act on reflex. Mindfulness literally changes the brain. And scientific studies have shown it works (for a review see Hofmann et al., 2010).
Try this quick practice as often as you can to slow your breathing, move your breath into your belly and become present.
Sit upright in a comfortable chair and place both feet on the ground. Close your eyes and place both hands on your belly. Consciously feel your breath going in your nose.
How it does feel on your nostrils?
Is the air warm or cold?
How does the breath inflate your belly?
How does the air feel going out of your nose/mouth?
Count the breaths if you like. Your aim is to do about 10.
If your mind wanders, as soon as you notice it congratulate yourself on being human, and focus back on your breath.
Practicing deep breathing regularly will have profound effects on your current stress and anxiety levels. However, it will also train your brain for when the sh*t hits the fan.
Doing this exercise regularly (FYI it is a marvellous way to start the day!) literally changes your brain. It activates neural pathways that will reduce your baseline levels of stress, and change your brain’s neurochemistry. This means that you will naturally live with a lower level of day-to-day stress.
And when the sh*t hits the fan?
You will not only know how to immediately reduce stress by doing your belly breathing, but you will also be much less stressed than you once would have been, because you have trained your brain.
This is exercise 1 of 5. I will share each exercise one at a time, so you have plenty of time to implement it, and start training your brain. So, be sure to check my blog regularly, or sign up to get priority access.