A young friend of mine, Joe, is a dedicated surfer and surf photographer. That’s his image, that beautiful purple-tinted wave with the surfer sliding down the face. Smooth. Gliding… gliding… gliding…
To do any sport well—to do anything well—you have to be relaxed. No stress. Stress interferes with your response to a changing situation, like the wave.
When Touretters get stressed, we immediately begin to tic more. That’s a fact: stress equals tics. So it makes sense to know techniques to reduce stress. You want to be able to scope out a situation and recognize that it’s potentially stressful—without getting stressed about it!
Actually, when you are approaching a difficult situation, that is when you begin your stress-reduction activities. Don’t wait until you find yourself climbing that ladder of tension and fear. Become aware of your breathing—that is something you can control.
You’re in the mall, you’re filling up at the gas station, you’re at school—and ticcing a little bit. You become aware of someone staring, thinking who knows what? Feel the tension rising? That is when you begin your stress reduction. Right at the moment you first identify the problem. The earlier you catch your stress, the easier it is to control. That’s the time to focus on your breathing. Has it sped up? Has it stopped?!
Be aware of your diaphragm rising and falling. Feel it going up and down. You’ll notice when things get tough your breathing speeds up, it gets shallow. You don’t want that. You want your breathing deep and regular. Deep breathing is an action you can take to gain some control of yourself in a situation. This will reduce your tics and help you maintain a positive attitude.
It’s good to educate others about TS (if they’re open to it). It’s important to advocate for yourself. But do it from a position of strength and calm. Remember to breathe. Breathe deeply. Really—stop and take three deep breaths. Even U.S. Navy SEALS use this technique when things get rough. Their mantra is: Stop. Take three deep breaths. Breathe normally. Proceed with caution.
So you want to exhale first. Then breathe in deeply. One… all the way in, all the way. Hold it a moment, then let it out—all the way out. Then two… breathe all the way in. Hold it—and all the way out. Then three…all the way in, take a beat enjoying the rising calm, then let your air out all the way.
You’ll find your breathing has normalized a bit. You don’t have to stop at three—that’s a minimum number of calming breaths. Keep it up as long as you need.
Think of Joe, the surfer—smooth. Gliding… gliding… gliding…
Breathing deeply. Out. Then in. Relaxed.
That way he can respond to his ever-changing wave.
You can do it too. Remember to breathe.
Remember… to breathe.