Top performers have one thing in common: their ability to balance emotion in times of stress. For those of us living in a fast-paced, urban, always on social media world, finding a sense of inner balance can sometimes provoke an increase in tension rather than a release. Cultivating a mindset to embrace stress involves continued practice and learning to “view your body’s stress response as helpful, not debilitating … view stress as energy you can use” notes an article from Stanford News.
Inhabiting tension is something we learn and practice. Feelings of stress, agitation, despair and anxiety can become so ingrained in our body, mind, and spirit that it’s easy to forget how simple it is to let these feelings go. When we do, the nervous system will begin to settle. When the nerves settle, the body settles. Becoming skilled at recognition and release of stress is one of the top ways to achieve optimal performance professionally.
Here is a five-step quick stress relief process:
- Awareness: Start with an open mind and a willingness to embrace tension. Close your eyes and scan the entire body and pay attention to any tightness, where is it being held?
- Exploration: Give into feeling tension. Acknowledge where it is in the body and examine any connections between muscular or emotional tightness or stress. Sit with the feeling for a few moments - even if it is uncomfortable.
- Recognition: Avoid placing any labels on these sensations. Remember it is only energy. Allow yourself to recognize it, for just that.
- Release: Begin the process of moving this tension or energy through and out of where it is being held too tightly. Anywhere these feelings are not serving the body, mind or spirit, breathe deeply and let the tension go.
- Energize: Use the flow of breath to release and re-energize the full body, mind and spirit. Imagine that with each breath of releasing tension, space is created to circulate a feeling of openness and freedom - shifting the energy from tightness to lightness and movement.
Through daily practice, cultivating new patterns for letting go and releasing tension can become immediate. Determine what works for you. From meditation and yoga, to mindful walks, journaling, and ancient practices like Tai Chi or QiGong, there are endless options. Give yourself permission to get curious about classes, online resources, and workshops that can provide a new perspective. Once you find something that speaks to you, keep it going every day for at least a week. This is the first step to starting a new habit.