With all of the recent super-hero movies, many of us may have identified at one time or another with one of the characters. Maybe we would love to have the engineering ability of Iron Man, the super-strength of Captain America, or maybe even the ability to throw Thor’s hammer. However, while we may hope to identify with all of the super-powers, we may most often identify with Bruce Banner, the Hulk. Bruce Banner is always combating the “stress monster” that comes about when his anger gets the best of him. He manages to keep it all in check sometimes, but when he loses control, he transforms into the Hulk and can no longer think rationally about his decisions. Does this sound familiar when stress and anger get the best of you?
While we may not transform into the Hulk, stress can cause mental, emotional, and physical problems when we experience it long term. So, how can we keep our inner Hulk in check? Bruce Banner is very aware of his heart rate, breathing patterns, and how his body specifically responds to stress. All of these things are key to managing our own stress when life throws us curve balls. Self-awareness or knowing how our bodies individually respond to stress is the key to managing it. Next, once we recognize these heightened types of mental, emotional, or physical patterns in ourselves… stop… and BREATHE. Breathe deeply from your belly. Imagine how a baby breathes when it is sleeping- its belly, not its chest, rises and falls. Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing can help slow our heart rate and bring our other physiological symptoms back to manageable levels. Taking time each day to breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes, and it will make a big difference when the stress monster creeps up in the day.