MANAGING YOUR TRIGGERS
EXERCISE 1: The 16 second gap
This short and easy technique helps to reduce stress in the moment and bring you back to present awareness. It allows you to choose a conscious reaction to a given situation, instead of being victim to an unhelpful pattern of behaviour when you experience a negative trigger.
It works in two situations – both in a pro-active and re-active way.
When preparing for a situation you find stressful e.g. an important conversation, or big presentation – something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
When someone says or does something that triggers you and this causes you to snap back in a destructive way. This person might just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when you are very irritated.
Practice first at a calm time with your eyes open.
Think of a person or situation where you have reacted badly, it can be anything small (like being spoken to in a dismissive way, or when someone has cut in on a queue, in traffic or otherwise.)
Feel the stress and where it is in your body.
Sense the tightening caused by the emotional upset. It may be a tightening in the throat, or a tensing of shoulders, clenching of muscles, even a sick feeling in the stomach.
Now close your eyes.
Take a long slow deep breath in.
This is what we call a “belly breath” (if you put your hand on your stomach you will feel it expand and deflate as you breath in and out.)
Watch your breath as it travels through your body.
Then hold it – and watch it.
Then watch it all the way out as it leaves your body through your nostrils.
Now open your eyes and breathe normally.
The key is to watch your breath the whole time.
As long as you are in the present moment and watching it you can’t be focusing on something else.
Close your eyes and try once more.
- Count to 4 as you breath in.
- Count to 4 as you hold.
- Count to 4 as you breath out.
- Count to 4 as you hold.
- Breathe normally.
You have just completed the “16 second gap” practice!
This practice won’t make the situation go away, but it will bring you back to yourself. To the present moment.
16 seconds of interrupting your pattern will give you the gap. It’s like putting your finger on the pause button. This awareness of yourself enables you to make a more conscious choice – the choice in the gap between conscious action or unhelpful reaction.
The more often you use focused attention on your breathing, the calmer you will feel generally. You can even set your timer to do this a couple of times a day for a minute.
With regular practice, we guarantee you will feel a difference to your stress levels!
16 seconds to make a difference – give it a try!
With gratitude to DavidJi for sharing this practice.
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