(This post is part 1 of a multi-part series on emotional control techniques.)
If you’re like me, more often than not, you find that your stress levels reach stratospheric proportions. At these times, it’s incredibly helpful to have a set of strategies you can use to calm the raging demons inside you. Today, I’ll be sharing a simple stress-reduction technique that can be used whenever you’re able to sit quietly for 30-60 seconds.
While most people are aware that our emotions influence our physiology, it’s less widely known that our physiology can influence our emotions. For instance, we all know that when we experience an event that makes us angry, our breathing patterns, body position and facial expressions start changing to varying degrees – we may find ourselves clenching our fists, furrowing our brows and breathing faster and sharper.
And by the same token, we can use certain body positions to generate emotions when we are feeling “emotionally neutral”. There’s a fascinating technique called “Alba Emoting” that teaches this more in-depth, but for now, I’m going you how to dissipate unwanted emotions but putting your body in a state of physical relaxation.
There are 4 steps to this exercise and once you’re doing all four at the same time, the body relaxes very quickly.
Step 1: Sit comfortably and do your best to release all tension in the body. If you have trouble doing this, tense your muscles for a few seconds and then release them so you can feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Make sure you let your shoulders drop and let the jaw hang slightly.
Step 2: Bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on breathing slower and deeper. Ideally, you should be breathing from the diaphragm but if that’s a bit tricky for you, just focus on taking slower inhalations and exhalations.
Step 3: Repeat the word “relax” over and over in your mind.
Step 4: In your mind’s eye, see yourself writing the word “relax” over and over on a blackboard. Repeat this sequence for at least 30 seconds or until you are calmer.
Bonus: To use this to fall asleep quickly, before starting the above steps, get into a comfortable position in bed and completely freeze your body in that position. Do your best to resist making even the slightest movement.
Now why does this work so well? First off, tension in the body tends to keep negative emotions going strong. So in step 1, we remove the tension by focusing on relaxing our muscles (breathing slower and deeper adds to this). Next, we repeat the word “relax” over and over which prevents us from continuing any negative self-talk in our minds that might be there (i.e. “I’m gonna kill this person!” or “This isn’t fair! Why does this always happen to me?”) and finally, when we are focusing on picturing the word “relax” it becomes impossible to visualize any negative images which may be driving the undesired emotion. Put all these steps together and you’ll find your mood shifting very quickly.
The more you practice this exercise, the more effective it become so play around with it a bit and let me know how it works for you.
Till next time,