I saw an article recently titled "Rise Above Your Awful Commute" about how to stay calm in the midst of traffic jams, rapid transit delays, commuter rail breakdowns and other similar challenges of getting where you want to go on time. The article encouraged strategies to be productive, lower tension in crowded places, and calm yourself during the commute as well as ways to shake off the effects once you arrive at your destination, such as:
- Download and listen to calming music, an audio- or e-book.
- Take a walk around the block before going to your desk.
- Think about an inspiring person, story, or value you hold.
- Spend a few minutes in a setting with natural light, vegetation or similar calming attributes.
I hope you'll read the entire article, but here's what stuck with me:
Practice deep breathing...
When I ask workshop participants and coaching clients how they re-center themselves under any kind of pressure, the first response is always about the breath...
- I take a deep breath.
- I breathe into my belly.
- I notice I'm holding my breath, and I relax and start breathing again.
Sue Shellenbarger, the article's writer, suggests the same: "Practice deep breathing, muscle relaxation or visualization to calm yourself."
My dear friend, author and peak performance coach Thomas Crum, has written widely on the power of the breath. His book Three Deep Breaths is a parable about the life changing effects of conscious breathing. Tom often says we're lucky that breathing is a function of the autonomic nervous system. Otherwise we'd be in trouble. In conflict and other pressure situations, it helps to take a breath on purpose--the purpose being to calm yourself and expand your options in the moment.
Here are a few more Ki Moments posts about how to practice that connection between a conscious breath and a return to a more centered, intentional, and peaceful mind-body quality of being:
- Centering Tip: Exhale!
- Managing Stress and Inner Conflict: You Know the Answer
- Happier: Thoughts and Practices on Centering and Mindfulness
Just like any other repetitive action, practice improves your ability to notice the tension, breathe, smile, and center yourself. Anytime. Anywhere. You'll be happy you did, and so will your fellow travelers!