STOP! Then Breathe Through Your Anxiety
There I was, driving in early morning traffic—for the first time in a long time—on my way to a forum meeting I chair for 13 CEOs, when the feeling started.
It was probably partly the traffic.
It was definitely because I was on my way to our first in-person socially-distanced group meeting after only meeting virtually over the COVID pandemic period.
My mind started with its tricks. Many thoughts of ‘what if’ started racing through my brain.
What if someone gets sick. What if the venue is not ready for us. What if.
What if …
That’s when I started feeling that familiar feeling of dread on the pit of my stomach. My anxiety gauge was kicking in!
The good thing was that I knew exactly what to you do: I was teaching a group that very week the STOP and square breathing technique! (Read the article here
- Stopped my thoughts first.
- Step 2 was to Take a breath. A slow deep one over four seconds. And hold it for four seconds. Breathe out for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds.
I repeated the process for three cycles.
The trick here is to focus on your out breath as the slowness of it is a signal to your brain to calm down.
- After three cycles I Observed. Was I feeling better? Was I calm? If not, you have to do some more breathing.
- If so, you are free to Proceed.
Yes, you can even do this is traffic!
There I was calm again. I could rationally take one thought at a time and arrive with a smile and a positive attitude to the meeting.
You may not always have the time to do the full square breathing exercise, but even a single deep breath held for four seconds will do wonders to calm your nerves.
Give it a try next time you start feeling anxious. Or scared. Or angry. Any negative emotion really.
It will help you to think straight again.