If we observe and reflect back, we can notice that many times we React to situations compulsively rather than Respond in a wise way. For example, in a fit of anger sometimes we shout at someone or make some hasty decisions and later realize that we should not have done that. The more we React than Respond to situations, the more likely we will strain the relationships with others be it in office, at home or in social contexts.

In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey talks about  ‘You are the product of your own choices’ and ‘Leaders are not born or made, they are self-made’. Every choice that we make for every situation that presents itself to us, determines where we end up in life.

How to Respond rather than React? How to develop a natural capacity to make such wiser choices?

If we closely observe ourselves we can notice that we Respond better when we are calm and we React when we are stressed, anxious or in any negative moods. If we further introspect we can notice that when we are in any negative emotions, there will be too many thought processes running in our head which make less mental capacity available to perceive the situation properly & Respond wisely – that’s why we React.

There are several techniques to become calm during difficult situations. For example, taking a few deep breaths, observing the breath, putting a smile on the face etc.

Here is a breathing technique which reduces the tendencies of getting stressful or anxious.

2-1-4-1 Breathing technique

Here is a simple way to control Blood Pressure and Heart rate and in turn the tendency for stressful and anxious nature – have a shorter inhale cycle and longer exhale cycle. This is how it works.

Now there is enough scientific research available on how breathing affects the autonomic nervous system which controls most of our body functions. If inhale cycle is longer, it triggers sympathetic nervous system which increases fight or flight instinct – stress and anxiety. If exhale cycle is longer it triggers parasympathetic nervous system which calms down the whole system. If you try inhale (2 counts) – hold (1 count) – exhale (4 counts) – hold (1 count) pattern for 5 minutes you can notice that BP and heart rate comes down. If you change it to inhale (4 count) – hold (1 count) – exhale (2 count) – hold (1 count), you can notice that BP and heart rate increase.

Initially, if you feel little bit breathless for 2-1-4-1 cycle, you can try 3-1-4-1 cycle.

So, just by this breathing technique you can reduce the stressful and anxious (fight or flight instinct) nature and Respond rather than React to situations.

Do try it out, experiment and let us know your experience.