Updated: May 10, 2019
The C-Suite Sessions is an ongoing series of short mental agility exercises meant to give busy executives practical centering tools that they can use anywhere. The series was created by CEO Tevis Trower and born of her 16 years leading executive development initiatives at best-practice corporations including Bloomberg, KKR, NBA and Disney, among others.
Session #1: “Tell Me Something Good”
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or listened to a guided meditation, chances are you’ve been led through a body scan, a visualization technique whereby you intentionally observe your body section by section, relaxing each area as you go. This meditative practice helps pull attention from “fight-or-flight” thoughts and introduces a parasympathetic counterbalance response.
While in a cozy, dimly-lit studio coached by a cooing instructor, achieving calm using a body scan is certainly possible. But when your world seems to be on a collision course of constant uncertainty, telling your body and nervous system to “relax and release” is akin to combatting panic with a stern "CALM DOWN."
But even if you manage to remember to try talk yourself off the ledge, telling yourself to "calm down" doesn't work. In these moments your nervous system is convinced it is under attack. You’ve felt this: rushing pulse, tightness in the throat, short breath, clenching here or there, eyes sharp. When fear has hijacked your amygdala and adrenaline is streaming through your body, you can’t reestablish equilibrium when there’s nothing with which to counteract that feeling.
We don't just need calm because it feels better than anxiety. A state of duress actually prevents humans from accessing the parts of their brains (executive function, planning, problem solving) that could help us regain perspective and are necessary to skillfully navigating whatever is going on that has us on edge. In the moments we need calm the most, we are least likely to have access to it.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a few variations on traditional balancing practices that are better suited for professionals in the most demanding corporate environments. Here’s one that always receives a favorable response:
I call it “Tell Me Something Good.” Inspired by somatic therapy techniques, this practice works well for a senior executives because it:
Can be done anywhere.
Takes very little time.
Is easy to remember.
Play this link* to hear me lead you through it or take a look at the below step by step and give it a try.
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Tell Me Something Good – 5 Steps to Calm That You Can Do Anywhere
This counterpoint helps you avert knee-jerk responses and perform more skillfully as you move back into action.
Wherever you are, seated or standing, balance your body out by uncrossing your legs, drawing your shoulders back evenly and drawing your chin in. If you’re alone, close your eyes. If in a public place or conference room with others, simply soften your focus by allowing light to come TO your eyes.
Breathe deeply into your belly a handful of times. Notice your whole torso expand and release. Feel whatever is underneath you – chair, floor or whatever.
Looking inside your body, ask yourself what part of your body feels good -- most at ease, calm, peaceful or supported.
Free from right or wrong, focus your attention on that place and the feeling of ease/calm/support that you find there. Continue your belly breath as you focus on that place of wellbeing. Notice how it grows.
Voilà! You’ll find that with as few as 15 breath cycles you can introduce a parasympathetic calmative counterbalance to your current state of emergency.