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Get Psyched or Calm Down?

Personal Performance- psych up or calm down

As a communications coach I often get asked “should I psyche myself up for this big presentation/ pitch or should I calm myself down?”

My answer is “Neither. Become coherent ie, controlled and clear.

Simply put, Coherence is a physiological (internal) state where your brain is receiving strong, clear, stable signals from your body. The good news is that you can learn to create this signal. Because the heart is 50 times more powerful than any other organ, it’s there that we start. By breathing rhythmically, evenly and with attention, you can ‘control’ your e-motions (energy in motion) which affects the way you think, behave and ultimately what results you achieve.

Rather than an outer to inner approach, this is a vastly more effective inner to outer approach. There are many ways to achieve this, including different types of meditation and mind training. One approach that I have found to be very helpful (particularly in a business setting) is using the acronym BREATHE. This stands for:

Breathe

Rhythmically

Evenly

And

Through the

Heart area

Everyday

Although we take breathing for granted because we don’t have to think about it, research shows that to be most coherent, three aspects of breathing are most important. In order they are:

Rhythm – a fixed ratio of in to out breaths. So you may breath in for a count of 4 and breath out for a count of 6. It doesn’t matter what your heart rate is, just make sure the ratio stays the same.

Even – simply breathe in and out smoothly – no stutters or stopping half way through a breath.

Through the heart area – this refers to your attention or focus. 3 thoughts:

  1. By focussing attention on the heart area, this practice helps to control the ‘monkey’ mind – where your ‘chattering’ mind gets pulled in many different directions, usually at the whim of external stimuli. This helps the mind to be alert and relaxed at the same time. 
  2. The practice is to gently keep bringing back your wandering attention by using thoughts of self kindness and care for self. Self compassion doesn’t mean you have to think you are great – it can mean just giving yourself a break and reassuring yourself that it’s ok not be perfect. Accepting yourself as you are right now.
  3. The heart is traditionally linked with emotions but in some eastern philosophies the word for heart is also the word for mind – they are inseparable. So what we are doing here is strengthening the “heart-mind” connection.

Many different devices are avail to help you breathe rhythmically and evenly but in addition there are apps that do this, while also monitoring the positive state of coherence. The Cardio Sense Trainer is a phone app or computer software that uses live bio feedback to help you FEEL when you are in this most coherent state. You use an earpiece plugged into your phone/computer. Essentially, it works like a traffic light system. When red lights up – internally you are in a chaotic state. When it’s green, you are in a coherent state. If you do this 10 mins in morning and 10 mins at night, within a few weeks, you’ll start to notice the positive changes in clarity, energy and self control.

The ability to take yourself into this coherent state is what great performances are made of. Just remember to BREATHE.

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Katie Ledger

Katie was a TV news presenter for BBC, ITN & Channel 5. She now uses her expertise as a conference facilitator, speaker & coach helping clients communicate with impact.

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