When we walk through the doors to see what terror Dave has created for us on that specific day, our bodies begin responding to this stress. Our heart rates elevate slightly, adrenaline is released by the adrenal gland, our pupils dilate, breathing elevates, and muscles tense up. This is all good and necessary for us to be better able to complete the tasks laid out before us. But if we get too revved up, it can become too much and your body shuts down.
This response is your Fight, Flight, or Freeze response and it is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. The opposite of the sympathetic nervous system is the parasympathetic system. It’s role is to calm you the eff down and get the body into a restorative mode.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems make up the Autonomic Nervous System and as the name implies it operates with autonomy. We don’t have to consciously regulate the system. So, what’s this BS I am offering that you can train your response?
With a technique called “Box Breathing” you can in fact learn how to quickly activate your parasympathetic nervous system when things get out of hand. I first learned about Box Breathing when I subscribed to Mark Divine’s online Unbeatable Mind Academy, which is a great resource that I recommend checking out if you are interested in learning more.
Here’s how to do it: First, exhale, through your nose, completely deflating your lungs to a 5 count cadence. Then, hold that state for a 5 count. Now, inhale through the nose, filling the lungs back up to a 5 count. Finally, hold that state for a 5 count. Repeat the cycles for at least 5 minutes and build up to 15 to 20 minute sessions. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning or while I am driving into the gym. It’s when I have some uninterrupted time.
With regular practice you will be able to begin using this training method WITHIN your workouts. The results will be that you can train with more intensity for longer periods of time and get greater results.
What’s even better, you can apply these same principles to the everyday stressors in life. When you have a deadline at work, family responsibilities, and not to mention you want to also be social, life can feel as though it’s slipping away from you. Take a quick 5 and practice the box breathing and you can start getting some normalcy again and be able to plan a method of attack. You will be surprised at how quickly it will come together for you.
So give it a try and let me know if you have any questions.