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It takes very little to spark anxiety. Our internal worlds anticipate worst-case-scenarios while our external environment throws continual curveballs that require all our skills to catch. Every day is an exercise in adaptability. We imagine ourselves managing crisis situations with poise, only to be humbled.

Physiology is not on our side. The path to a fight/flight/freeze response is fast. Once the brain starts cycling that quickly, the ability to decipher communication diminishes. Lessons from past experiences get blocked in the same way students go blank on exams under pressure.

Give yourself a break. A minute or so of breathing done right effectively resets your body, and repairs your temporarily disabled coping skills. Inhale slowly into your belly. Hold that breath for a moment and then let the exhale leak out slowly. Before you know it, your heartrate and blood pressure decrease, muscles relax, brain speed slows down, and the immune system produces more T-cells.

Life’s challenges are constant. Under normal circumstances, we adjust and move forward. Under stressful conditions, some of our strengths disappear temporarily and we’re not always our best selves. Managing the stress effectively awakens maturity. Clarity is only a few deep breaths away.

About the Author

Steve Ritter, LCSW is the Founder and Executive Director of Elmhurst Counseling. He has served as a teacher, author, consultant, human resources director, health care administrator, and licensed clinical social worker since 1977. A fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Steve has provided coaching, therapy and team development services to thriving schools, businesses and organizations.