Increasing your self-awareness around your emotional responses is important, because the sooner you can invoke mindful techniques like tapping into your breathing, the better equipped you are to work through and deal with negative feelings. For example, sometimes when I’m about to present to a large audience, I can feel my heart rate increase, and I get quite jittery. This is my body’s first signal that I’m nervous or anxious.
Everyone has different triggers, depending on their life experiences. Start by being curious about your own and then tuning into them, whether they’re fatigue, work stress, an action, a person, or perhaps social anxiety. Next, when faced with these triggers, make focussing on your breath your go-to action and try to embed the habit. For example, if you have social anxiety and need to walk into a party, you could routinely go to the bathroom first and practise some deep breathing, or use a prompt like your hand on the door handle to take a few really slow deep breaths before entering.
I also like to use a stress-reduction technique called resonant breathing. You can use this tool in any situation – in the moment, looking at a clock, or while you’re walking. It’s a pattern of breathing in for 10 seconds, then out for 10 seconds, a total of six times. It’s very pacifying and it only takes two minutes in total. So if you’re in a state of high anxiety at work, get up from your desk, take a short walk around the building and focus mindfully on the rhythm of your steps and the in-and-out of your breath. This is my go-to approach for cutting off negative self-talk and settling my nerves before walking out onto a stage.