Stress: We’ve all felt it.
Sometimes stress can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well at your piano recital or job interview. But often — like when you’re stuck in traffic — it’s a negative force. If you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronic — unless you take action.
Have you ever found yourself with sweaty hands on a first date or felt your heart pound during a scary movie? Then you know you can feel stress in both your mind and body.
This automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect them from predators and other threats. Faced with danger, the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem.
These days, you’re not likely to face the threat of being eaten.
But you probably do confront multiple challenges every day, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills and juggling childcare that make your body react the same way. As a result, your body’s natural alarm system — the “fight or flight” response — may be stuck in the on position. And that can have serious consequences for your health.
When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason.
Stress can make existing problems worse. In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain. Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example. Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes.
(Probably) The Most Stressful Job In The World
The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations are among the most elite tactical units in law enforcement and the military. SWAT is the most utilized first response team in the FBI, and is classified as a Tier 1 response unit by the Attorney General.
In order to obtain SWAT team jobs, candidates must meet the highest standards on a number of tests that include
- Problem solving
- Physical fitness
- Decision making
- Arrest techniques
- Ability to command and obey orders
This is probably the most stressful job in the world. Just imagine being in a SWAT team, having to face terrorist and dangerous situations regularly. Definitely more stressful than being a desk jockey. SWAT teams are expected to perform at peak levels even under extreme conditions like exhaustion, stress, and duress. One of the skills that are very important to them is called “Tactical Breathing”.
Here’s tactical breathing in a nutshell:
Begin by breathing in your nose to a slow count of four, while feeling your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it for a count of four, then slowly exhale through your lips to a count of four and then repeat the process. Do it right now – In through the nose, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Out through the lips, two, three, four. So it’s basically just 4/4/4/ inhale/hold/exhale. That’s it.
Do it right now if you don’t believe me that it works wonders for instantly lowering your heart rate and helping to control the stress response.
When should I do it?
Use this throughout the day or anytime you feel your breathing get shallow, your chest get constricted, and the desire to throw sharp objects at people arises. It works insanely well.
I challenge you to use it at 5 various times throughout the day:
- When you’re at work and a co-worker/boss says something that makes you want to scream
- When you’re in traffic and you are getting pissed off
- When your kids are stressing you to exhaustion
- When you’re arguing with a friend/spouse/child/parent and you want to throw something heavy at them
- When you have a deadline, you are late for a meeting, or otherwise are in a rush — just start doing tactical breathing
Leave a comment below telling me what other technique you use to avoid throwing things at people.
Or, pass this onto a friend that you know really needs to chill out.