How often do you clench your jaw, feel a pain in your belly, a weight on your chest, tightness in your throat, or the unnecessary release of a harsh word? Most likely the reason was stress -- a fact of life that creeps into our minds and our bodies, affects our relationships at work and at home, and forces us to do things, say things, and make decisions that we quickly regret.
Destressifying Saved My Life
But it doesn't have to be like that. There are antidotes for stressful thinking and solutions for moving beyond stress and its damaging emotional and physical side effects. I know this from personal experience. I transitioned from a high-pressure, high-stress life to one of greater purpose, personal empowerment and deeper fulfillment. I didn't do it alone. And it took me many years of research, study and practice. And it didn't hurt that, for the next 10 years, I was apprenticing under the guidance of Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon as the Lead Educator and the Dean of Chopra Center University.
But that gave me the opportunity train hundreds of thousands around the world; to find out first-hand what worked and what didn't; and to develop a curriculum of all the teachings into an accessible and practical format. When I was in the throes of a stressed-out life... in the depths of my overwhelm and sadness, I didn't even know there were teachings!
Fast-forward to today. Duh! Of course there are powerful tools that we can easily access to take our lives to the next level. Of course there are scientifically proven techniques we can use to be our best version in every moment. And yes, there are even in-the-moment, real-world practices to bring us instant clarity, greater creativity, and virtually guarantee that our most core needs will be met. I call the practice destressifying; and thousands of my students in the corporate world, the military, Special Forces, and law enforcement throughout the U.S., have received transformational and long-lasting results from cultivating destressifying in their lives.
So let's dive into a stress-busting tool right now so you can feel the transformational nature of these teachings.
16 Seconds That Will Change Your Life
Of all the techniques that I've shared throughout the world, the one with the most powerful effect is perhaps the simplest one. It's a game changer, and I call it "16 seconds to clarity." Not only does it have a profound destressifying impact in the moment, but it can also be the foundation for a long-lasting daily practice. I've trained more than 100,000 people from all walks of life in this powerful technique and it has had a transformational impact.
Let's try it right now. It's okay to keep reading as you go through this exercise with me:
Think of something that has irritated or bothered you in the past few days... a difficult conversation, a disappointment, an unmet expectation. Perhaps someone said they would do something and they didn't, or they said they would meet you at a certain time and they were late, or they unexpectedly shared something about you with another person and it got back to you. (Don't go too deep. This isn't therapy.) But right now, feel free to envision that other person's face... maybe replay the moment in your mind's eye, even notice someplace in your body that feels connected to the irritation. Take a few moments to settle into that space.
Now take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nostrils, and as you do... slowly count to four, and observe the air as it moves into your nostrils and to the back of your throat. Watch your breath as it moves down your chest and deep into your lungs. Feel your belly expand.
Observe your belly being filled, and hold that breath in to the count of four. And just witness the breath in your belly as you silently count. One, two, three, four.
Now slowly, to the count of four, release your breath and watch it as it moves up into your chest, into your throat, into your sinuses, and out through your nostrils.
And when the last wisp of air is out of you, hold that breath out to the count of four. And observe it, watch it, witness it... as it dissipates into the air.
The Power of the Present Moment
If you were playing along, our whole experience was 16 seconds; and in that quarter of a minute while you were observing your breath, you were totally present. You were not thinking about the past or any of its grievances or regrets, nor moving into the future with all its predictions and projections. You were not thinking about your irritation. You were totally in the present moment. Your mind is a little calmer; your heartbeat has slowed a bit. You've filled your body with heavily oxygenated blood and nourishing hormones, and in the process, you've released a little bit of stress.
In under a minute, you have taken another powerful step into destressifying. The formal terminology for what's happening in 16seconds is introducing a pattern interrupt. You actually just jammed the brakes on a potential surge of stress hormones and all the negative bodymind reactions you were starting to feel as you reflected on your irritation. You broke the flow of conditioned physical and emotional biological responses. Just the thought of this irritating situation or person triggered a memory of the stressful circumstances, and in 16 seconds you returned to the present moment. Then in the 17th second, you're clearer -- beyond the moment of emotion.
Hopefully, you are a bit calmer... a bit lighter... a bit easier. Now imagine if you could string together minutes of that. Well, you actually do every time you use a destressifying technique such as 16seconds or any of the other in-the-moment destressifying tools.
When we introduce a pattern interrupt into our flow of thoughts, we can gently step aside from the uneasy memories of the past or the anxious thoughts of the future and truly ground ourselves back into the present moment. Our bodymind moves beyond all that irritation, anger, discomfort, anxiety, and less-than or "it's not fair" thinking. The constriction vanishes instantly; and our next thought, word, or action will come from a less conditioned, more expansive place. Now we are primed for greater possibilities, novel solutions, and infinite potential. Whatever limiting belief was holding us back is momentarily suspended.
The formal definition of destressifying is our ability to easily adapt to stressful situations and adversity without experiencing the physical and emotional negative repercussions of stress. Destressifying is a lifestyle and a daily practice that goes deep into: cultivating our awareness; meeting our core needs; heightening our emotional intelligence; communicating more consciously, nourishing our relationships; and discovering our purpose. Through mastering these principles you will experience a surge in personal empowerment, fulfillment and daily happiness.
Awareness is the Key
Being truly aware in a destressified sense takes all of your senses -- hearing, seeing, smelling, touching. So whatever you do for a living, to be at the peak of your game means you have to show up every day rested, wide awake, and alert. Awareness is truly the key. The best managers, workers, athletes, and leaders are calm, ready, non-reactive, and alert to internal and external changes throughout the day. Each of our in-the-moment actions can have longer-term consequences and the "little" things like treating people with respect and courtesy can ripple on forever in our minds.
So much of the stress we experience is created by our very own words as they ripple into others' ears and lives. When we are able to clearly and consciously articulate our needs to others without emotional charge, and make measurable requests in non-reactive ways, the world opens up to us.
Conflict Resolution through destressifying
Stress in the form of resistance from others, argumentative conversations, and the ensuing melodrama can become a thing of the past by using conscious communication, which basically means being compassionate, conscious of other's needs, and emotionally aware in all our interactions.
During your next interaction with someone, try these 5 tips:
- Be present. Use my 16 seconds breathing technique to quickly transport your mind into the present moment. This way you won't bring in any past laden emotional drama. Recognize that this moment is an opportunity for resolving your old feelings about conflicts.
Listening is the cornerstone of conscious communication. When we listen, we can hear nuances, detect emotions, and uncover deeper meaning -- we also connect on a deeper level to the person speaking. They feel heard. There's a lower likelihood for misunderstanding and it opens the door to meeting every one's needs. In the process of listening, you will expand your own perspective - appreciating another's viewpoint -- as new facts, new emotions, and new needs reveal themselves.
You can dig deeper into many other destressifying concepts and techniques in my new book destressifying: The Real-World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Lasting Fulfillment, and Peace of Mind available everywhere books are sold. It will teach you to prepare for, recover from, and adapt in the face of uncertainty, overwhelm, stress, adversity, trauma, or tragedy. We're not simply talking about bouncing back after we've faced a challenge; but rather, mastering our perception of the moment, and cultivating our natural ability to seize the moment and express our best version in the face of demanding, difficult, and taxing situations. Our personal growth and self-actualization are the most-powerful bi-products of destressifying. And, as we take these baby steps to move our life to the next level as we move throughout the day, everyone we touch will also feel the benefit of our destressifying!
davidji is an internationally recognized stress-management expert, corporate mindful performance trainer, meditation teacher, and best-selling author of the critically acclaimed: destressifying: The Real-World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Lasting Fulfillment, and Peace of Mind