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What To DO When You're Knee Deep In It!

Sometimes it's just another day... Other days life is total overwhelm, right?!

The everyday bumps and inconveniences are taking their toll on some of us more than ever at the moment – some days we can roll with the punches, other days it's complete overwhelm and stress at the smallest thing 

How can I 'help you help yourselves' in just 5 minutes on the page? Because I can’t change your mindset or attitude or your TO DO list, right?

What I CAN do is share an excerpt from my webinar presentation to 400+ members of the Tourism Industry Association – now this is a group of people who are being hit harder and are deeper ‘in it’ than most! 

I’m going to explain why it’s NOT YOUR FAULT that you react the way you do when you’re knee deep in it, and give you some tools to get you out of it!  Tools that are free, legal and under your nose.  

Here’s the beauty of them – they don’t require you to be calm to remember them in the first place! They’re practical tools you can use to shift out of fight and flight - that’s your stress response - using your body.

Because unless you’re really well versed in the practices of resilience and mindfulness, you can really only respond PHYSICALLY to the stress you’re already in.

When you're knee deep in it, there’s absolutely no point trying to rationalise anything!

MIND HACKING - a threat's a threat's threat!

Now I’ve said I won’t attempt to try to change your mindset in 5 minutes BUT here’s 2 things to reassure yourself that your knee-jerk reaction to a situation isn’t your fault.

First up - Two million years ago daily PHYSICAL threats to our life were almost routine, but in today’s world, the threat is very rarely in our physical environment. But our brain can’t distinguish between sources of stress and treats EVERY threat as if you’re about to be jumped by a sabre tooth tiger…. it prepares your mind and body for a physical attack. 

This means that you're actually geared up for a fight or to run away. Being pumped for a physical confrontation is awesome in a physically emergency, but obviously not what you need when your stress is caused by your worry about your business, or a difficult conversation you’re going to have to have with a staff member, or the bank. Having a racing heart beat, blood being pumped to your limbs and tunnel vision is not going to help you. 

But our brain just can’t tell the difference - a threat is a threat is a threat whether its threatening our physical survival or threatening our relationships, our businesses, or our financial health

MIND HACKING - what we need goes offline. 

Second point about our brain today: The pre-frontal cortex is where we access creativity, resourcefulness, our ability to learn and problem solve, acceptance, insight, wise decision making and our capacity to concentrate. Awesome right? It’s the part of the brain that gives you precisely what you need when you are stressed!

But here’s the crazy bit – which some of you may recall from a blog I shared earlier this year – the pre-frontal cortex goes offline when you’re stressed!  So frustrating!?

This is because first and foremost - your brain’s job is to keep you safe, it’s not to make you happy, or successful or rich. And that’s precisely why when you’re STRESSED you’re less likely to take the best course of action or respond calmly.

These two mind hacking tips make sense of WHY we can’t help ourselves easily when we’re stressed, or depressed, or anxious or overwhelmed with exhaustion or hopelessness. BUT when we’re aware of them, we can practice using them to our advantage. 

For example, when you're noticing a stress response in your body, you can acknowledge that your brain is doing its job to keep you safe, rather than beat yourself up for not being able to make good decisions.

Ok now to your body.  The tools.

Deep breathing - read on!
Stare off into space - are you serious? Yes! ...
Go to sleep - now that's more like it!


First of all.  Breathe, sigh and yawn, even sing. Use your breath as a tool to create a space between a knee jerk reaction and a considered response. Deep belly breathing creates calm so you can access your clever brain again because it switches you from 'fight or flight' (stress response) to 'rest and digest' (calm state). Because when we breathe deeply we’re sending a signal that there is no tiger chasing us.  When you think about it - if you were actually being chased down by a sabre tooth tiger, it's highly unlikely you’d stop half way and take some deep delicious belly breaths isn't it?!    

What’s the magic tool?  Take 5. Taking 5 seconds, or even 5 breaths, or even 5 minutes to bring balance and calm to make better decisions when you’re feeling stressed.


Second, try intervening with your eyes. When we’re stressed what’s in front of us is in sharp focus - we’ve literally got laser focus on that sabre tooth tiger, that threat in whatever form that 'tiger' takes.  So another way of sending a message to our body to get us out of fight and flight is to stare off into space - blur your vision and try not to focus on anything in particular. 

We also lose our peripheral vision when we are overwhelmed and feeling stressed or anxious.  So take your gaze to the corners of your room.  Look straight ahead and keep your head straight but shift your eyes to the upper left corner of your room, hold here for a few seconds, remembering to breathe, before shifting your gaze to the right corner of your space. Keeping your face straight ahead.

The next time you find yourself staring off into space, at least you know you’re doing your nervous system a favour!

TOOL #3 - SLEEP ...

Last one- Self Care - yes everyone talks about self care!  I’m going to focus on prioritizing your sleep, ok and maybe a bit of exercise. Here’s why. Neither your body or your mind can function without sufficient sleep (I won’t go into the science and research today!). To help sleep you need to reduce stimulants - alcohol, caffeine, sugar to name a few. And get some fresh air and exercise. 

And HERE’S THE THING about exercise and stress. Any exercise you do will reduce the levels of cortisol in your system - cortisol is the stress hormone released when your body feels a threat. Exercise is basically mimicking the fighting of a tiger, or the running away from a tiger which uses up the excess cortisol in your system. And reduced cortisol is awesome (read: 'necessary') for your health and your sleep. 

You've heard it before - you’re no bloody use to anyone if you don’t look after yourself FIRST. This is the ‘put your oxygen mask on first’ method.  Prioritising self-care because you - and your whanau, friends, workmates and clients deserve to get the best of you!

Now the awesome thing about all these tools is that you could almost do all of them at once.

Take a slow walk, outside, deep breathing, for 5 minutes, staring into the distance. 

You may feel a little silly to start with, but just think about the incredibly healthy physiological messages being sent to your nervous system, which in turn creates chemical and hormonal responses to help you calm down and regain access to your prefrontal cortex! Fantastic!

These body intervention tools are available to us all, and how effective they are, like everything else meaningful in life, comes down to how mindful you are about practising them.

Thanks for getting to the end!

I’m hoping you feel a little more prepared with some practical, physical, ways you can intervene the stress response when you really don't need to be set up to fight or run away! 

And that you feel reassured knowing there’s nothing wrong with you when you’re stressed and can’t remember anything from a well-intentioned ‘no-stress’ training programme – your brain is simply doing it’s job to keep you safe!!


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