Did you ever notice that it takes a long while for a small flame to heat a pot of water, but once a pot of water is hot, even a very big one, it can be kept simmering with the same small flame. Big pot, little flame, and the water is rolling and bubbling and hot, hot, hot.
Now, what if the pot represented you, the water represented your inner thermostat, and the flame, your day to day stresses?
Looking at stress in this way clearly shows that when you're already running hot, the smallest heat can get you to simmering, or even boiling point. The hotter you already are, the greater the influence of any additional heat. And the cooler you are, the longer it takes for that little flame to have any noticeable impact at all.
To hover between hot and boiling point is hazardous to your health and disastrous to your quality of life.
The key problem with stress is that things of little real significance seem oh so important. The wood and the trees get all mixed up and making a good judgement is unlikely. Eventually your body, having whispered, cajoled and pleaded with you over time, will shout “enough” and bring you to a grinding halt in one of a variety of devastating and attention grabbing ways.
But why wait until things get serious/dangerous? Slowing down and cooling down, don’t have to be major, productivity halting endeavours. Initially the very nature of stress will have you thinking you don’t have time, as if it’s a distraction and indulgence to take time out to invest in yourself. Yet research is showing again and again that those who use small units of time to relax, walk, swim, play with their kids, are feeling happier and getting more done than those who are running round trying to get more done.
As with all interventions, when things are spiralling out of control you have to stop and commit to making some changes by design rather than by force when your body or mind can no longer take the pressure.
Three Quick Tricks to Turn Down the Heat
1. The Cooling Breath
Practise a deep breathing exercise for ten minutes a day. It could be in your lunch break, on the train, before going to bed - whenever you choose.
You don’t need equipment, and you don’t need to go to a particular location. All you need to do is stop. Turn your phone to answer, drop your shoulders, close your eyes and breathe.
If you practice slowing and deepening your breath, you will signal to your body that it can stop producing stress hormones and stand down. Over the next few minutes your heart rate will slow, your blood pressure will drop, your muscles will relax and your mind can enjoy the genuine relief that comes from simply focusing on your breath.
2. Reset and Reboot
This is great exercise for relieving tension and clearing the mind. Take a deep breath in and stretch your arms up and back so that your chest expands out. Let yourself stretch and yawn. Now take another deep breath and, as you do, pull down gently but firmly on your earlobes. This will probably cause you to yawn, and that yawn is nature’s way of resetting your system, letting off some steam and cooling your mind.
3. Press the Calm Point
Renowned teacher of Ayurveda, Dr. Vasant Lad recommends using an ayurvedic pressure point for combating anxiety - here’s how to do it:
Make a fist with your left hand, so that your fingers rest in the middle of your palm. Then find the point where your middle finger ends, in the "heart" or centre of your palm. Now press firmly into that point with with the thumb of your right hand. Hold it for about a minute while you breathe deeply, this calms the mind and reduces irritation and anxiety.