Have you ever wished you didn’t bite when someone triggered you?
Staying zen when triggered is not a superpower reserved just for monks. It is a state that anyone can achieve. All you need are some good old-fashioned mindfulness and psychology techniques plus a little bit of practice.
These 6 mindfulness techniques are most effective (and feel more natural) when applied in this order.
However if you are only able to apply one, the art of being still is the most powerful. Read on to find out why.
1. Be still
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”― Viktor E. Frankl
By being still you are halting or delaying the momentum of negative energy.
It is that time and space Victor E. Frankl wrote about where the power to choose our response resides.
The nervous system is another area that also benefits from the power of stillness.
“Stillness produces the anti-stress fix by allowing us some chill time without totally checking out and being numb to our experience,” Lawson says.
2. Take long, slow breathes
Naturally in times of anxiousness you tend to take fast and shallow breaths, which isn’t good for your good for your body or mind (think increase in CO2 in the bloodstream, stress hormone release, muddled thinking etc.) Slow, long breathes will help your body to remain calm and your mind clear and controlled.
Check out these breathing exercises to help manage anxious moments with this post from healthline.com.
3. Be present
The goal of this mindfulness technique is to be a conscious observer rather than an unconscious participant. Be mindfully present in the moment, notice what is happening and how you are feeling. Look for visual details to help you remain anchored and present. And finally, try not to judge whatever you are feeling or thinking – just observe and release, observe and release.
To learn some more mindfulness techniques visit Alison at Mind Body Energy in Sydney.
4. Actively listen
Sadly so many of life’s conflicts have been based on misunderstandings. I wonder how many of those situations wouldn’t have occurred if either party had been actively listening.
Active listening is listening with the intention of receiving the complete message being communicated. To actively listen one needs to focus on the words being said, make an effort to understand those words from the speaker’s perspective, and finally to feedback the understanding of the message.
Making the effort to listen and understand the other person’s point of view puts you in a better position to resolve conflict amicably.
For more detail on how to better actively listen, see this post from Mind Tools.
5. Relax your body
You may think you're not tense, but what is your body telling you?
By relaxing your body you are discouraging the sympathetic nervous system from engaging – this is the system which drives the body’s fight-or-flight stress response.
So if your body’s tense your response may not be as considered as you had hoped.
Mentally scan your body to release any physical tension you have. Pay special attention to your jaw, shoulders and your hands to ensure they are relaxed and loose.
For more detail about the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system (which predominates in rest scenarios) see this article on Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System by Jacob Tindle and Prasanna Tadi.
6. Lower your voice
As you are now in a state of calm you can be more confident that your response will be calm too!
Lower your voice and respond calmly, taking care to keep your body relaxed. This combination not only helps keep your stress hormones down but will also allow for a more civil discussion.
By putting time and space between feeling triggered and your comeback you are allowing yourself to make a considered and calm response, which in effect enables a civil discussion that can resolve the issue amicably. It all starts with the ability to be stop and become mindful.
It is useful to practice the above techniques by yourself to at least get some memory of it imprinted in your muscles and thought patterns. Most of these techniques won't come naturally in times of tension, so practice is important.
For more calm techniques see our post on 8 Different Ways to Create Instant Calm.