Breathing in Combat

Last week I held a very basic self-defense workshop for the City of Calgary Waterworks division. Now some of you might be wondering why a leadership coach / consultant would teach a self-defense course. First of all, it’s fun, but second of all as the Olympics show us, intense physical challenges teach us something deeply important about the human spirit.

Although self-defense is not a sport, think of what it takes to manage fear in a crisis situation. When faced with a life-threatening situation, people experience not only a flight or fight response, but also a third more deadly “freeze” response. Higher level brain functions shutdown and primal instincts take over.

In leading ourselves, we may not face life and death situations all the time, but we often experience situations that overwhelm us. You know it when you feel panic or extreme anger or any loss of emotional control. In other words, your higher brain functions shutdown.

How do we bring our emotions back under control? In combat, soldiers are taught “combat breathing”. Breathe in deeply, hold it for three seconds, then breathe out and hold for three seconds. By slowing down their heart rate, they can regain control of their thinking ability.

Believe it or not, this works for controlling our emotions as well. Give it shot! Next time you feel the stress, the anger, the panic… breathe.

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