This post is a hybrid between a personal anecdote and useful information if you’re someone who has a hard time dealing with high-stress circumstances.
In the context of what we do at The Way Factory, this information will help you cope with the negative effects of stress and high pressure. Accordingly, you’ll be able to manage nervousness before an interview, for instance, which sometimes puts us in a regrettable situation!
You know what you’ve got, you know what you’re made of, you’re prepared to show your full potential. But then… the day comes and everything on your mind just… puff… disappears.
Your hands shake and your voice trembles. You start focusing on your physical reactions rather than on the recruiter. “I could have done much better if only I didn’t get nervous!” some of us think.
Well, like most aspects of our body, this is something that can be trained. With the right methodology, discipline, and willingness to make nervousness stop, you can gain substantial control over these situations; leading you to excel in your job interview or any other high-stress circumstance of your life!
Here’s my story:
I am ultra-sensitive, anxious by nature. I have had anxiety attacks, I have felt and still feel a weight on my chest in situations of high stress!
A few years ago, I had so much stress that it totally paralyzed me every time I would have an oral exam, which in my school was quite often.
It was extremely frustrating because I was a rather good student. I would study extensively and be always super prepared.
But when it came to expressing my knowledge in an oral exam, I would completely crack.
I would cry, suffocate and be unable to put together a single sentence.
After the exams, I would be distraught and feel ashamed. It would only contribute to further increase my lack of confidence. Sort of a vicious circle.
After a last catastrophic oral exam, my mother and I looked for stress management methods and one called my attention: Sophrology.
I was 16 years old, I had never heard of this concept which was far from the trend it has today, but the idea of managing stress through breathing management intrigued me.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Sophrology or mindful meditation is a tool for personal development, developed by a Colombian neurologist: Alfonso Caycedo, whose objective is to improve our well-being and serenity through mindfulness.
A little bit of context!
Etymologically, “sophrology” comes from Greek: sos (harmony), phren (consciousness) and logos (study). It is, therefore, a matter of achieving – through simple exercises – harmonization of body and mind.
Sophrology is a personal approach aiming to find, develop and adapt our resources to our needs and objectives.
This method offers us the opportunity to reach a modified state of consciousness, in between awake and asleep.
You will be able to stimulate different capabilities and resources that you’re not aware of or that you do not use much.
You will be able not only to relax, concentrate, manage your stress and emotions, but also to be more positive.
It is also about helping you change the perception you have on yourself, others and the world. That will help you approach situations in a much more serene way in order to have fair and appropriate reactions.
In short: A vast and ambitious methodology!
To improve our well-being and serenity, sophrology uses techniques that will affect the body and mind through breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization. Sophrology allows you to acquire a better knowledge of yourself and to better control your emotions and stress.
Back to the story!
Intrigued, I met a sophrologist to whom I talked, at first, exclusively about my stress. Then, we worked more generally on who I was and who I wanted to become. Sophrology allows us to apprehend our stress but more generally to apprehend the person we are.
When I’d encounter myself in high-stress situations, I would engage in the following 5-minute exercise, which is extremely efficient if you feel a lot of nervousness and you need to be quickly calmed down (i.e: when looking for a job, before an interview, before a presentation, before asking for a raise).
You can do it wherever and whenever you want.
Short and handy 5-minute exercise
Do a 4-count breath:
- Inhale through the nose, counting to 4
- Block your breath, counting to 4
- Blow through your mouth, counting to 4
- Stop breathing, counting to 4
Do this exercise 3 times and your heart rate will drop!
In addition to this, when I would have some time and privacy, I would engage in this 15-minute exercise that would relax deeply my entire body and calm my thoughts.
Longer, deeper 15-minute exercise
1. Sit comfortably in a chair or lying on a bed in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
2. Start by welcoming all the sensations in your body without judgment, you are a caring observer. Maybe your thoughts are starting to flicker, let them pass by without clinging to them.
3. Observe your breathing, its rhythm. Breathe in deeply through your nose and blow through your mouth. Remember to inflate your stomach properly. Feel your ribs rise with each inhalation, then lower with each exhalation.
Also feel the comings and goings from your stomach to the rhythm of your breathing.
Observe the cold air as you breathe in and the warm air that comes out.
4. Put your attention on your body, with all the areas in contact: The back of your head, the back of your shoulders, the back of your arms, your back, your bottom, the back of your legs, your feet.
Take the time to observe these sensations of contact with your body. Collect your feelings.
If you don’t feel anything, just note “I don’t feel anything”.
5. Direct your attention to your left foot, imagine it passing through a scanner and go up along your left leg, note the tensions, tingling. Gently move your toes, ankle, and stretch your leg for a few moments. Enjoy the heat that then spreads to your muscles and relax. Compare the sensations of the left and right legs.
6. Now put your attention on your right foot, slowly move up along your leg, trying to keep your attention on.
Activate your toes, your right ankle and also stretch your leg and then relax. Take a moment to make your sensations conscious.
Remember to take a deep breath. Point your feet towards the wall in front of you and feel like you muscle creates an energy that spreads throughout the lower part of your body. Your legs are now awake.
7. Now direct your attention to your hands, note the sensations that animate them: Are they numb, boiling or absent from your field of consciousness? Activate your in-house scanner to move it up along your arms.
Move your fingers slightly, then your wrists and finally your arms slightly. Relax, the same energy flows through your arms and feeds your body.
Don’t forget to take a deep breath.
8. Focus on your head, let your inner gaze caress your head, forehead, and face.
Feel the weight of your head on the pillow, go down along your neck, raise your chin towards the ceiling, take a deep breath before turning your head to the right and then to the left.
Do not force it. Perform your movements in consciousness as many times as you wish.
9. Let your scanner descend along your chest and then your belly, welcome all the sensations present here in the center of your emotions. Your whole body is now awake.
10. Pay clear attention, breathe deeply and imagine a positive feeling that will occupy each of your cells. Feel it flow through yourself, you are relaxed, in full form and full consciousness.
11. Stretch like a cat and then open your eyes gently.
12. Thank yourself for this moment.
You are now ready to serenely welcome the different moments of your day 🙂
Back to the story!
The main goal is awareness. Perceive your stress/nervousness, acknowledge it exists, and carefully bring it down to its minimum expression. It changed my life.
Pretending not to feel any stress or nervousness anymore on high-stress situations would be lying to you. But today, I have much higher control over it.
I have completed oral exams or interviews in ways I couldn’t before. I owe that to sophrology.
I used to attend private soprohlogy sessions for stress management.
But I understand if you may not have the desire or the budget to do the same. You can also find lots of free resources online.
Now, I no longer pay for sessions. I go on YouTube where there are many videos of very high quality.
Bonus: If you have difficulty falling asleep, I invite you to try a session in the evening before going to bed. It’s quite effective, you’ll see!
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ve reached a Buddhist-monk level of serenity. I’m always 3 hours early at an airport for any flight due to stress!!!
My stress management has still room for improvement, but evolution is real. I could never have done the studies I did or taken the risks I took without sophrology.