Car breakdown, agitated children, couple bickering: if we can’t control how the day starts, we can at least change the way we continue it! A few ways to smile again after a false start.
The morning when everything goes wrong
The alarm clock didn’t ring. The blouse we wanted to wear is stained. On purpose, there is not a single drop of milk left for our coffee. Never mind, we’ll take it on the way. But to make matters worse, a policeman gives us a speeding ticket!
The antidote one, even the most organized and far-sighted being, is safe from a morning riddled with little glitches. But the first reflex, it is, all the same, to be impatient, even to be enraged. Sometimes you just have to play it down. This is what Emmanuelle, 36, mother of two boys does. “When the drama sets in, the baby cries and the big one throws a tantrum, I get so overwhelmed that sometimes I can’t do anything but laugh about it! To bring it all to a happier level, I play the boys’ favorite song very loudly and we dance in the kitchen! It’s a reset for everyone, and dancing lets off steam! Another solution, within everyone’s reach, is to take the time to breathe. “Cardiac coherence is the art of controlling our heart rate by breathing, explains David O’Hare, a specialist in cardiac coherence at the Institute of Integrated Medicine in Paris. For a period of 15 days, we do 3 daily sessions (morning, noon, and evening) of 6 breaths per minute, for 5 minutes (3-6-5 technique). Our heart will then beat in coherence and a series of hormonal, neural, and biochemical events will ensue which will reduce stress and help us better manage our emotions (really!). When the practice of 3-6-5 is regular, it will be easier to use it in stressful situations. noon and evening) of 6 breaths per minute, for 5 minutes (3-6-5 technique). Our heart will then beat in coherence and a series of hormonal, neural, and biochemical events will ensue which will reduce stress and help us better manage our emotions (really!). When the practice of 3-6-5 is regular, it will be easier to use it in stressful situations. noon and evening) of 6 breaths per minute, for 5 minutes (3-6-5 technique). Our heart will then beat in coherence and a series of hormonal, neural, and biochemical events will ensue which will decrease stress and help us better manage our emotions (really!). When the practice of 3-6-5 is regular, it will be easier to use it in stressful situations.
The catastrophic delay
Our morning routine is set to the quarter turn. The children’s lunches and clothes are ready from the day before, but… the train has been out of order for 30 minutes. Despite our best efforts, we’re going to be late for a very important meeting. Worse, we will probably miss it!
The antidote We first remember that the people present at the meeting have probably all experienced a similar situation. So we let them know we’re late, and then “why not write down the point we would like to discuss at the meeting and send it by email?” proposes the psychologist Lucie Mandeville. Once our delay is announced, we take the opportunity to breathe. “For emergencies or difficult situations, we do 1-6-1, that is to say, 1 time 6 breaths per minute for 1 minute. After a strong emotion or before a difficult situation, this pause will, in as little as 20 seconds, restore balance and emotional neutrality”, according to David O’Hare.
The big quarrel
We had a fight with our boyfriend and we parted with the slamming of the door. No matter how hard we try to find our good mood, we can’t. We no longer have the heart for anything.
The antidote “Studies show that there are only four reasons to be stressed: loss of control, unpredictability, novelty and threatened ego or fear of having a pride injury, explains Pierrich Plusquellec, researcher and co-director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress. In the situation that concerns us, the threat to the ego is the main source of stress. To find some comfort, we can, immediately after the conflict, call a friend to give her our version of the facts. Then, we regain control of the situation by sending a text message or an email to our spouse to tell him that we were perhaps not completely right and that we would like to talk about it again calmly in the evening.
The anxiety of waiting
The phone rings. The doctor’s secretary asks us to come by at the end of the day because he wants to discuss the results of our latest tests with us. Desperate, we launch on the Web in search of all possible scenarios. It is certain that we will spend the day preparing for the worst.
The antidotes be frank: we are not likely to spend the day of the century! That said, even if our brain keeps bringing us back to the worst, “to calm down, you have to regain control over certain aspects of the situation and plan for the future, by adopting a plan B”, suggests Pierrich Plusquellec. We don’t know what the future holds, it’s true, but sometimes taking a mental inventory of the resources at our disposal – our family, our friends, our good neighbors, organizations, our own resourcefulness – can calm the game, because we know we are equipped. “We thus thwart stress by acting on its causes,” adds Mr. Plusquellec. Moreover, if we cannot speed up the day, “we plan an activity where our attention will be focused on something else, suggests kinesiologist, Karine Larose. The practice of yoga or meditation necessarily involves an awareness of our breathing. We clear our minds and focus on our mantra. We repeat it out loud if necessary to help distract us. Without removing our main concern, we temporarily reduce the stress it causes us.
The comparison that kills
At the coffee machine, we meet our colleague, beaming, who announces that she has just completed a “little 5 km” run to start the day! It’s been ages since we’ve done any exercise and this morning, we felt good to have just managed to get out of bed, so lacking in energy!
The antidoteComparing yourself to others is the surest way to start the tape of self-criticism! “We often have disproportionate expectations of ourselves,” comments Lucie Mandeville. To regain control, we identify two essential things that we would like to accomplish during the day. Not ten, but two that would make us really proud and satisfied.” And we make sure that these essential things really start from ourselves, from our desires and our needs, not from those of our colleagues! Perhaps she derives from the race an immense benefit that does not concern us, and that is very good. If we need help determining what we really want, we embark on an automatic writing activity, suggests Manon Lavoie, creativity coach: “We take out a notebook, a timer, a pencil and we write everything, really anything that comes to mind, for 10 or 20 minutes, quickly, without lifting the pencil from the sheet to take the time to think. We breathe deeply. What do we want to achieve? And then we take the first concrete step. Taking action liberates.”
While having lunch, we take a look on FB. A friend just posted photos from her most recent getaway to Bora Bora. Her life seems so much more glamorous and successful to us than ours: she is beautiful, rich, accomplished, and gorgeous in her bikini! We know that we have plenty of reasons to be happy, but, at this precise moment, we have the horrible impression of having missed our life!
The antidote First reminder: “Facebook is a staging, a collage of carefully chosen images and words,” recalls Lucie Mandeville. When we feel ugly or our styling is disastrous, we don’t promote it on social networks. It’s the same for our friend! “Who knows? This beautiful and thin friend may be going through a horrible divorce,” she recalls. That evening, why not organize a girls’ dinner, “where we can tell our misfortunes and find some comfort? suggests Pierrich Plusquellec. We could also do volunteer work because being around a reality worse than our own will boost our ego and make us appreciate our life more.”
Find a smile faster
The day starts badly? If we don’t do something to restore a more positive state of mind, our stress can affect the quality of our relationships and even ruin our health. But how to turn the tide when nothing is going right?
Karine Larose believes that adopting a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to counter bad moods on a daily basis. “Physical exercise activates the secretion of endorphins, hormones with relaxing properties that promote both physical and mental well-being.”
If sport is not our cup of tea, other options are available to us. “The important thing is to choose an activity that appeals to us,” says Lucie Mandeville. What usually cheers us up? What would do us good now?” she asks, noting that some people will always change their mood faster than others.
- Center for Human Stress Studies
- Respirelax, respiratory guide (free application on Apple Store).
- Cardiac Coherence 365: Day-by-Day Cardiac Coherence Guide, by David O’Hare, Thierry Souccar Éditions, 2012, 102 p., $12.95.
- New Vivre plus guide , by Karine Larose, Trécarré, 2012. 288 p., $29.95.
- Be happy without effort, without pain, without breaking your head, by Lucie Mandeville, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2012, 232 p., $29.95