Tools for Less Stressful Transitions

“The neat thing about breathing is, by changing the way in which you breathe you can actually change thoughts and emotions”

– James Nestor, NY Times bestselling Author, Breath

Do you notice your stress level steadily rising as the day progresses so that by the time 3pm hits (or even before), you’re just zonked? Or maybe you’re agitated and unable to unwind without a double margarita and an hour of social media? Assuming we start the day from a lower stress threshold than we end up with, how do we maintain a greater balance throughout?

Here’s the truth about change, it’s never linear, not even for an hour.

Seriously, could you maintain a state of equilibrium in your mind or body for an hour? Maybe if you’re sleeping or meditating. But for most of us, our mood, our energy level, our attention, and many other things shift all day long.

No surprise when you think about it. But here’s the key piece we often miss, the biggest mood, energy, and attention swings usually happen during times of transition. And we transition from place to place, task to task, meeting to meeting, all day long.

Transitions, whether big life transitions or sprinting from one meeting to the next, trigger a stress response. That stress might be a surge of energizing adrenaline, which tends to naturally dissipate after the event winds down.

Or it might be the more persistent anxiety-based stress, which releases a hormone signature that your worried thoughts keep fueling long after the event has passed. And when we don’t address the stress, it accumulates to the point of burnout.

“Emotions that simmer beneath the threshold of awareness can have a powerful impact on how we perceive and react, even though we have no idea they are at work. “

– Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence

Does your stress level rise on the way to work or dropping off kids, before meetings, or even on the way to the gym? I’ve caught my stress level rising on the way to a yoga class many times, and now that I teach yoga, I recognize it’s not uncommon to see people rushing to a class to find relaxation.

Yet the thing about rushing to a yoga class is, you spend the next hour relaxing so you’re calm on the drive home. I’m so peaceful during my post-class pitstop at the grocery store people probably think I’m high on more than dopamine and serotonin the feel-good brain chemicals are responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentedness.

But you don’t have to commit to an hour-long yoga class (much as I recommend it) in order to stop your stress response from building until by the end of the day you’re ready to either sleep or snap.

By using simple stress management techniques like triangle breathing, the physiological sigh or the 365 practice, you’re able to change the way you respond to stress. Talk about empowering!

Author Bruce Feiler’s book, Life is in the Transitions, reminds us that transitions, the space between past and future states, are a perfect time to change the trajectory. Checking in, taking a pause to notice what’s happening internally as you move from one thing to the next, gives you the chance to course correct.

What are some of your more stressful transitions?

How can you use your transitions to regroup, regulate your stress level and stabilize your energy?

One of my favorites is using the physiological sigh on my way to teaching a class. I arrive feeling calmer and more centered than I was before the drive.

I invite you to find a practice you like and test the concept over the next week. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Ready to get started?

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