When you see a three-horned monster, RUN!
But otherwise, no matter what’s in front of you, just stand still and breathe.
When I was a child, my dad told me to take three deep breaths if I felt nervous before I sang a solo at church or did a presentation for a class project. It always calmed me to practice taking those three breaths.
The simple act of breathing literally assuages the brain and calms the amygdala fear reaction of fight or flight, calling on the prefrontal cortex do its job and be the CEO.
Many times, it’s the simplest things that you can do–like taking a deep breath–that create the necessary space in our minds to collect our thoughts and respond thoughtfully to life, rather than just react.
Often as I walk up to the podium to speak, I can’t remember the beginning of my talk. But I know that as soon as I stand with my shoulders back and breathe deeply, it will all come back to me.
As I tell my story, I often feel emotion sweep over me–enough to move the audience. I breathe again and pause to collect myself in order to move forward. Stepping in again and again, and remembering to breathe, I embody my message.
This works really well in any emotional drama too. Your breath will diffuse the impact of that drama, allowing you to respond with compassion instead of anger and angst.
I can’t recall how many times, over my kid’s education, they would call or text me about having test anxiety. My response was always the same in all caps: BREATHE.
No matter what your anxiety level, always remember to notice your breath. If you are holding your breath when you feel fear (which is a common reaction), your brain is depleted of oxygen and it will cause you to freeze and panic. If you can catch yourself early, and take three to five conscious breaths, you will notice your fears fading into white noise in the background.
Remember what I said in the beginning of this blog:
Whether or not you practice meditation or yoga, tuning into your breath will bring peace and clarity.
It is in your breath that you will find your most vibrant life.