by Joey Klein, author of “The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit“
It’s no secret we’re living through times of massive uncertainty — over the pandemic, the election, political and racial strife, and the economy. The challenge for business owners, entrepreneurs, and everyone is to stay focused on our vision and not get derailed by the chaos around us.
When the world around us seems to be going crazy, we may become distracted by feelings of fear, worry or dread. In a fear-based state, we lose access to the parts of our brain responsible for reasoning and creative thinking. These are the resources we need to make good choices and develop effective strategies to build and run a business in challenging times.
Fortunately, through internal training techniques, we can learn to manage our emotional state. We can foster a creative environment within ourselves and tap into energy, optimism, enthusiasm, innovation, and other positive states that allow us to be more effective as leaders. It starts with becoming aware of your internal state.
When you are in a state of fear, anger, panic, or other negative emotions, a number of things occur physiologically. Your breath gets short and shallow, your heart rate speeds up, and your muscles tense. This is the fight-or-flight response we inherited through evolution, an adaptation designed to keep us safe from threats. Unfortunately, it’s not what we need to face the stressors of modern life.
When you’re running a business, you need to be able to stay calm and focused, especially when things seem out of control. One of the best ways to do this, I have found, is through deep breathing and relaxation techniques. By focusing on your breathing for two to five minutes, you can move out of fight-or-flight and into a calmer state.
When you breathe deeply and focus on relaxing your body, you send a message to your brain that disrupts the fear response and reactivates the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for creative and critical thinking, and the primary source of inspiration, passion, love, peace, joy, and other positive states.
Here are four steps to help you reset your internal state:
1. Pay Attention to Your Body.
When you start to feel your heart racing, your breathing getting shallow, and your muscles getting tense, it’s time to:
Take two to three minutes and stop whatever you’re doing. Don’t send an email, don’t pick up the phone, don’t watch TV or look at your Facebook. If necessary, close your eyes (and your laptop!) to eliminate distractions and get present to how you are feeling.
3. Name Your Internal State.
Ask: “How do I feel? Do I feel agitated or overwhelmed? Do I feel anxious or sad? Worried and fearful?”
4. Breathe Deeply.
Breathe three deep, relaxed breaths. Take five to 10 seconds to inhale through your nose. Pause and hold for a second, then exhale for five to 10 seconds through your mouth. Pause, and repeat the cycle while focusing on relaxing your body.
5. Name What You Want to Achieve.
When you feel more relaxed, name the outcome you want to create and what you can do to move toward that result.
Through regular practice, you can learn to turn off the fight-or-flight response, and turn on more love-based, opportunistic states of mind. Eventually, as these practices become second nature, you’ll find yourself going into fight-or-flight reaction less often, and able maintain a greater state of calm and equanimity. That will allow you to lead more effectively, no matter what’s happening in your business and the world.
Joey Klein is the founder and CEO of Inner Matrix Systems, a personal mastery training system for high achievers. He is the author of “The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit“. He has been interviewed by Self Magazine, INC.com, Yahoo Finance and NBC. Klein has coached leaders from some of the world’s top companies, including IBM, Coca Cola and the World Health Organization.