Breathe better to present better

What do you have in common with a highly-skilled ninja-type assassin? A lot more than you may think.

Ninjas, you, everybody can panic in situations that feel threatening. It may be when coming up against a heavily-armed adversary, even if it’s in a computer game rather than in real life. For most of us, it’s more likely to be a less life-or-death situation – having a difficult conversation, speaking up in an important meeting, or making a presentation. Whatever the situation, real or imaginary, your sense of panic is real and it has the same effect. It’s the stress response, also known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. Automatically adrenalin is released into your bloodstream, your heart rate goes up, you breathe faster and you have trouble thinking clearly. In effect, your thinking brain goes offline. You revert to habit and impulse.

As Geordie in the novel says, when panic looms, it’s time to pay attention to your breathing. Breathing is the one vital function that you can control deliberately, just by deciding to breathe more fully and more slowly. This is why breathing exercises and breath control are an essential part of so many disciplines. Deliberately breathing more slowly and deeply puts you back in control. It calms you down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and that brings your thinking brain back online. It’s a classic example of how mind and body are two aspects of the same system, continually playing off each other – like the rhythm players and melody players of a band.

You can do this exercise pretty much any time, any place. Give it a try and let me know how it goes