Saturday, April 21, 2012

Learning to live and fight Navy SEAL-style!

Possibly for the battlefields of war, but most definitely for the battlefields of life and business!

While there is no questioning the physical toughness of the men who make it through Navy SEAL training, even more important may be the mental toughness those individuals possess.

After all when less than 25% of the soldiers who begin training make it through and become SEALs, sheer physical strength alone is only one of the components that separates those who succeed from those who do not!

The bottom-line is that whether training to become a SEAL, going to school, raising a family, competing in a sport, working a 9-5 job or running a business, the first and possibly most important fight will take place within ourselves!

The battle taking place within our own minds!

This battle can occur whether it's trying to "win" a new client, argue before a jury, give a speech, play a sport, enter an unfamiliar room of strangers or taking a test in school.

We have all experienced the sensation of "battling" the demons of insecurity or lack of confidence within our own minds, before we ever got to the point of "fighting" against our opponent.

When we use phrases like "I psyched myself out" or "my opponent is playing mind games," that competitor has gone a long way towards losing the fight within their mind! Here is the description of the battle from SEALFit:

The First Battle: "...The first is inside you. That battle is overcoming your fears, steeling your resolve, maintaining an offensive mind set, developing skills, knowledge and personal power, and not succumbing to the habit of conveying special powers upon your enemy..." (SEALFit)

So what are some tactics to use in order to get into a position to win this fight?

The first will be presented here with 2, 3 and 4 provided in upcoming articles.

Tactic 1 addresses a problem which is unfortunately too familiar for most of us. It's that feeling of trying to breath and having the sensation that someone is sitting on your chest. In other words being in a state of high anxiety.

So what steps can be taken to maintain steady breathing in the fight to take control of our own bodies and minds?

Again from SealFit.

"Performance Zone breathing

Control of the breath is not just useful for arousal control, leading to a lessening of the effect of the negative impact of stress, but also in the positive sense it is useful to change your state even if the stress facing you is “simply” performance anxiety.  Elite athletes and Navy SEALs utilize breath control to prepare for missions and events.  The act of psyching yourself up physically and mentally includes deep diaphragmatic breathing, forced exhalation breaths combined with powerful visualization and positive affirmations.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing is both a conscious and unconscious process.  When unconscious we tend be do what is called “chest breathing.”  This type of breathing is inefficient and labor intensive in that it requires more effort for the same amount of oxygen intake, lowering energy stores and increasing anxiety.

Facing a stressful event, we should switch to a deep diaphragmatic breathing pattern.

We can practice a deep diaphragmatic breathing pattern through a discipline we call Box Breathing at SEALFIT Academy.  Box breathing is meant to be done in a quiet and controlled setting, not while you are in the fight.  The pattern is simply a box, whereby you inhale to a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, exhale to the same 5 count and hold again for 5.  You can start at 3 if this is difficult, or take it up a notch if easy.  You should be uncomfortable on the exhale hold, and be forced to fill the entirely of your lung capacity on the inhale hold.

The benefits of deep diaphragmatic box breathing include:
  •  Reduction of performance anxiety
  •  Control of the arousal response
  •  Increasing brain elasticity – flexibility through enhanced blood flow and reduced mental stimulation
  •  Enhancing learning and skill development
  •  Increasing capacity for focused attention and long term concentration

Relax, just breathe!

When you are in “the fight” you will not want to hold your breath.  So we turn to what we call a Relaxation breath instead.  In this practice you will drop the hold and just inhale to a count of 5 starting from the diaphragm then filling up the middle of your chest then finally the top as if you are gulping in a final sip of air.  Immediately you will begin to exhale in the opposite manner – starting at the top and ending with a puff to get the air out of the deep recesses of your lungs.  Then you do it again and again.

The relaxation breath is valuable to control the arousal response, calming the body and mind so you can remain in control, focused and present.  If you practice it enough it will eventually become your natural breathing state, providing enormous physical and mental benefits over the long run, such as:
  • Long term anxiety reduction
  • Chronic pain reduction
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Improved immune functioning
  • Enhanced lung capacity
  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Enhanced control over bodily functions
  • Enhanced sense of presence
  • Increased energy

You can practice the relaxation breathing exercise anytime throughout the day.  It is great to do before a meeting, while driving, or now, while you are reading this!"

More to come!

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