This has been a strange week – I started working on 3 basic things that I thought didn’t require working on: breathing, calmness, happiness.
I mean, we all know how to breathe… But, when breathing deliberately such that your exhale is longer than your inhale, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system (the one that controls your fight-or-flight responses). Without going into details, down regulating your sympathetic nervous system will help immensely with managing the symptoms relating to a stress situation.
Truthfully, if you are not being purposely mindful of your breathing and quieting your mind during that time, you may not ‘see’ the benefits at all. Which brings me to my next learning about calmness.
Isn’t it just “Keep Calm and ____ On”, the much overused tag line? Just be calm and carry on with whatever you were doing. Easier said than done.
Being calm requires you having that ‘muscle memory’ to activate calmness. Calm is the super power of achieving perspective in difficult situations. You do not just be calm, it necessitates practice, which includes slowing down your response by making sure you have all the information you need to respond. Often it is listening, sometimes it is about asking for more information, but every time it means stop and take stock. Do not match panic and anger by turning up your pitch, volume, or aggression because it will spiral out of control. Calmness can be as contagious as panic, so choose calm. Enforced social distancing allows us to recalibrate because our external lives have slowed down. But we will need calmness even more at home facing our parents (in-laws), kids and partners 24-7.
Which leads me to my final point, happiness.
I had signed up for the Science of Well-Being by Dr Laurie Santos on Coursera, I guess because it is free and over 1 million people have signed up (total #FOMO!). Totally forgot about it until my colleague Charlene mentioned Laurie Santos on her blog post earlier this week. I will do a full review of the course after I am done (I am now caught up!) but now am a third through and I want to share a couple of super quick, relevant points here.
#1 Our mind screws with us by feeding us with mis-wants – things that we think will make us happy, but in truth it fails to live up to our expectations. Like that new phone/house/car/hand bag/husband/wife. Or simply more money.
Remember that 3-5% market standard salary increment you received, or did not receive? 2 months later that amount is distinctly disconnected with your current state of well-being, yet we attach so much emotional capital to comp communication back then.
#2 So why are we so bad with setting expectations? Every year at work we do our goal setting, and we are good at this. Yes, only if we have the same discipline at setting realistic work expectations as we have for personal goals like: losing weight, finding true love, nailing a fab job etc. And execute by putting in the effort we can afford to achieve it. The right benchmark is crucial in this process.
I do not have the solution to the above, yet – am only a third through the course but I will share more interesting insights as I progress along. Check back in next week!
- Power of Breath by Dylan Werner on Alo Moves
- Unlocking Us podcast by Brene Brown on Spotify
- The Science of Well-Being by Dr Laurie Santos on Coursera