The STEM 1.0 Corporate Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Stress and anxiety are the biggest threat to your Zone.

2. Combat Breathing is when you breathe deeply and controlled to calm anxiety and stress. You can do it anytime you feel that you are out of your Zone.

3. This is so effective because the centres of your brain that control breathing are closely linked to the area that controls stress. If you can calm the electrical activity in the breathing centre, then you can control your stress levels.

Now that you have a sense of what your Zone is, you need to learn how to return to your ideal performance state when going gets tough. When tension creeps into your relaxed, high-energy, high-output state, your effort increases but your performance drops. Stress and anxiety are the biggest threat to your Zone.

Remember figure skater Joannie Rochette at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics? She used relaxation breathing while standing by the boards with her coach to get back into the Zone when her emotions about her mother’s death arose as she was about to start her program at the Olympics. As a result, she went out and won the Bronze medal.

The reason breathing is so effective is that the centres of your brain that control breathing are closely linked to the area that controls stress. If you can calm the electrical activity in the breathing centre, then you have a good chance of calming the stress. That’s why yoga and meditation work.

Deep, controlled breathing to calm anxiety or stress is often called Combat Breathing. You can do it anytime you feel that you are out of your Zone.
 
Here’s how:

1) Get into good posture by aligning your spine and stretching yourself upward. You can be lying down, sitting in a chair or standing. Then relax your muscles.

2) Do a scan for tension in your body and then focus on that area while you take a slow deep breath. Think about “letting go” of the tension as you exhale. (It might take a few breaths to get an area like your shoulders or forehead to release and relax.)

3) When you feel you have addressed the tense areas, start taking controlled breaths. (I usually take 4 seconds to inhale, hold it for 2 seconds and then exhale for 6 seconds.) If you are trying to relax, exhale longer than you inhale. If you are trying to psyche up or increase your energy, inhale longer and exhale quickly.

The key is to realize you are stressed and take slow deep breaths – no matter what you are trying to get in the Zone for – a presentation, a performance, a meeting, an exam or just trying to get in the right head space to arrive home to your kids.

Today's Power Up: Relaxation Breathing

1. Practice relaxation breathing when stress or tension prevent you from being in your Zone.

2. Take a moment to practice relaxation breathing at least once per day ideally during a moment when you're feeling tense or stressed. I like practicing this in the car when I'm driving to and from work. If you practice it enough the relaxation response will become almost automatic whenever you're feeling anxious.