How would you describe your relationship with stress? Do you know how to breathe it out?
It may sound like a weird question or slightly new age-y but imagine the scenario if most of us have no idea just how stressed we actually are when we rock up at the stables? Meaning – we have no idea how much Cortisol (the stress hormone) is floating around in our body, produced by our brain in response to how we are feeling that day and what we’ve thought about.
Our thoughts and feelings create stress!
What if we could find out just how much cortisol is floating around inside us, and therefore just how stressed (unconsciously) we are? What if we could actually measure it and get instant feedback then do something positive to fix it, again with instant feedback?
Imagine the power of knowing if you are stressed BEFORE getting on your horse, and being able to fix it!
The answer my friend is not ‘lying in the wind’ (as the song goes), the answer is ‘focus on your breathe’
I decided to test out my own stress levels in a number of different ‘every day’ situations to enable me to visually show its impact! The scenarios and results are outlined below:-
Scenario 1 How stressed am I (without having any massive reason to explain it) on a mid-week work day?
Scenario 2 How stressed am I (or not) on a day off?
Scenario 3 What (if any) impact on my stress levels does listening to music have for me?
Scenario 4 Can meditation reduce stress?
Scenario 5 Does thinking negatively create stress? How noticeable is it?
Using the Inner Balance App by Heart Math I put each of these scenarios to the test and recorded the results. In each scenario I did the same thing and focused on breathing deeply.
The results are interpreted as follows:-
Red bars means stress is running rife in my body!
Blue bars means my body is balancing out the stress
Green bars means I am stress free – called coherence.
(Stress in each case is being measured by the variability in my heart rate. When the heart rate has high variability the brain is releasing a stress hormone called Cortisol.
Cortisol if left unchecked, is harmful to our health over time).
Scenario 1: On a regular work day (Wednesday)
I was not a happy bunny with lots of red (stress) all totally unconscious to me as I wasn’t delivering a presentation that day or visiting a tricky client etc.
Seeing this I was then able to manage my stress and reduce it (red, to blue to green), with deep breathing.
Scenario 2 : Results on a day off!
A much more relaxed picture – a lot less red and far more green.
I started out with some stress (red which I didn’t realise I was feeling after all it was a day off)! After a much quicker time frame than on my work day however, I was able to move through to blue before finding my target stress free zone of green!
Scenario 3: Listening to relaxing music before measuring my stress
A marked improvement in stress elimination!
An important demonstration of the power of taking time to consciously relax, to reduce stress. In just a few moments of deep breathing I was re-balancing (blue) before my body said ‘yep no stress here today’ (green)!
The combination of music, plus deep breathing and I was good to go and good to ride!
Scenario 4: With Meditation
A big difference in stress levels! I had NONE! Absolutely No red!
This was achieved by doing a short mental meditation about ten minutes before i clipped the sensor on.
Being in green i.e. stress free means we have mental coherence and that promotes good decision-making and creativity – both of which can be jolly helpful when you’re riding a horse!
Scenario 5: Rehearsing in my mind a ‘difficult conversation’ I was about to have with someone.
In stark contrast to scenario 4 – on this day, It was very difficult to get out of the red zone; Stress was rife!
Now I knew I was a feeling a “bit” angry in advance of some stuff that I needed to ‘get off my chest’, but it is hard to be aware of the underlying amount of stress building up in our bodies when we think negatively. AND it is impossible to know how hard it is to shake it off, until you do something like use a sensor to measure your stress levels.
Although I was able to get into blue zone and be more emotionally balanced, it was far more difficult and took much longer, than in any of the other scenarios. I did manage to end my stress and it was a good lesson in how much deep breathing it actually took and how stuck in ‘negative’ thinking I had become!
I’m not sure a summary is needed – the colours say it all (I hope)! Bottom line is most of us are more stressed, more of the time, than we realise! But, there is much we can do about it including listening to calming music, deep breathing and a few minutes of meditation.
As you can imagine when I work with some riders, they are often keen to measure their own stress levels and how to become more aware of how to recognise it in your body. Many leading Golfers and professional athletes use this particular app to make sure they are in the right mental place before the ‘gun goes off’. they ‘tee off’ of before they ‘serve’! You can probably understand why! So, why we horse riders wouldn’t use it too, is beyond logic.
Want to have a go? Give me a call today and let’s get you started!