|Take a minute to decompress, in whatever way is most effective for you. Get (or give) a hug. Smile. Look up at the sky, feel the breeze on your face and think of the beauty all around you and the good and caring people who you have in your life.
When you return to the fray, your sight will be more clear, your hand more steady, and your mind will be more ready for the task at hand.
Step I: The literal breathing thing.
You need to learn to breath. I am absolutely serious. Since we come out of the womb pretty much ready to do this with the first slap, you'd think we would know how to do this.
Au contraire mon ami!
The mere act of affirmatively telling your body to breathe a certain way helps break the automatic and sometimes counterproductive stress mechanisms of our body as well as our mind.
Your system reacts to mental stress almost as if it is physical danger, yet the body has no equivalent physical outlet to burn off the energy. That can be harmful to both your physical and your mental capabilities.
So the first task is to incorporate "tactical breathing" into your life. There are a ton of different sources for and names of this approach, but folks who are recognized experts on some of the most intense stress imaginable describe the techinique this way:
One major way to combat stress and its negative effects is through tactical breathing. The authors describe that there are only two autonomic nervous system actions you can consciously control; breathing and blinking. Of the two, controlling your breathing will be of great benefit during a stressful situation. You can decrease your heart rate by practicing tactical breathing. The breaths should be deep 'belly breaths', that is, during inhaling, your stomach expands like a balloon. Each step is done while mentally counting to four. The four simple steps to this breathing are:
In through the nose, two, three, four.
Hold two, three, four.
Out through the lips two, three, four.
Hold two, three, four.
This tactical breathing sequence is most effective when repeated at least four times.
Ok. Go ahead. Breathe.
Step II. The Figurative Breath
The figurative breathing excercise is very individual specific.
But for starters, here's a couple of suggestions:
Listen to some poetry: At Poetry Everywhere
A couple of my favorites:
by Billy Collins
One Boy Told Me
by Naomi Shihab Nye
There are unlimited ways of taking a break.
And taking a break beats getting broken.
So take one now and again.
Also, feel free to share how you feel. Here or with someone else you trust.
Get regular excercise.
Look for humor where you can.
Keep (or get) a regular sleep cycle.
Avoid (limit) harmful habits that can mask stress or even make it worse.
Take care of yourself....
For the same reason the flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first - because you have to be fully functional to help yourself before you can help others.