Future Female together with Wunder and Mimmit koodaa arranged a virtual event starring Kari Ketonen on how to keep your cool under pressure late last year. This well-known Finnish actor who happens to be also a trained psychotherapist with many years of experience, not only revealed a side of him that not everyone knew about, but also presented a method that I had a chance to try the very next day after his virtual live event. In this article I will share the main takeaways from Ketonen’s presentation and my own experience how the tips worked in real life.
After more or less “very special” year of 2020 so many of us are a bit low on energy, inspiration and also tolerance for pressured situations. Constant changes in our everyday lives require creativity and heightened levels of alertness. As the situation has lasted for months many of us can feel “out of breath”. This can bring our stress levels up and when the stress lasts long enough our personal resources can start to run low – and with low resources and ongoing demand for innovative solutions to manage the everyday life we start to feel even more out of breath, stressed and low with the overall stamina, ideas and solutions. Both at work and at our private life – which to many have also blurred together during the last year.
When stressed we feel that we won’t make it or that we won’t perform as well as we wanted to – and this causes anxiety and agony. Then we communicate with each other, in a hurry, via written text or via phone/video call (in worst cases even without the video). The stress causes us to have the lower level of empathy: we simply do not understand each other as well as we would in a more normal (IRL communication and without the multilevel pressure caused by the pandemic) situation. And when we lack the common understanding, our team working skills are diminished and the risks for missteps and misunderstandings grow tremendously. At the end of the day there is more chaos and misunderstandings and way less solutions, accomplishments and satisfaction – and this again causing even more agony.
What to do? How can one possibly “stay cool” when so many things go sideways?
To understand this one must understand what happens when we are in a pressured situation. Based on Kari’s presentation there are three options. We end up doing one of these:
Regardless of what our reaction is, breathing is highly involved in the physical reaction in our bodies. And if you think that what is the most vital thing we humans need to survive, well, it is oxygen and breathing. Now, bear with me, this is slightly complicated (and here presented in a simplified way), but fortunately the solution itself is very simple.
As Kari told in his event, when we start to panic/feel stressed and hyperventilate the problem actually is not that we could not inhale enough oxygen, but actually our C02 tolerance goes down causing a vicious circle:
C02 tolerance goes down, causing our threshold for panicking to go down and this causes us to start breathing through our mouth and exhaling even bigger amounts of C02 and lowering our C02 tolerance even more.
And the solution is as simple as breathing through the nose. This way you wont exhale the same amount of Co2 and your tolerance level remains the same. So instead of “losing it” you will:
Breath through the nose, your threshold for panicking goes up and your breathing will remain calm and controlled.
And does this work? And how does this work if one has to wear a mask?
After arranging the Virtual Live event with all together 5 persons at the Wunder’s premises from where the Ketonen’s presentation was streamed, the very following day I had a chance to try out what I learned from Kari.
Friday the 20th of November, 2020 (this was just days before the restrictions were raised again) Mimmit koodaa had an megalomanic online event with two simultaneous live streams and over 20 speakers (physically at the site) including e.g. the Minister of Education, Li Andersson and Mikko Hyppönen from F-secure. With a somewhat ad hoc timetable I had the pleasure of jumping into Mimmit koodaa event team and my responsibility was to create and publish content to Mimmit koodaa’s Instagram and Twitter. This meant taking pictures and quotes from every keynote speaker, posting the materials to social media, tagging the right persons and companies, retweeting and replying to people’s comments. Anyone who has ever done live event social media content knows that even if this sounds “chill and cool”, actually there is pretty plenty to do. Especially with two simultaneous streams and two platforms (IG and Twitter).
The timetable was ambitious (yet, luckily very well planned) and due to HUS area recommendations I was wearing a mask. Also I had worked from home since March, so even being around more than a handful of people at the same time was a (very lovely) “strange” experience.
This sounds like a combination that could have ended in a situation where Mimmit koodaa’s social media content would be packed with spelling mistakes, faulty tagging and pictures in which the persons portrayed would appear to at least dislike to be photographed or even look like they are suffering in one way or another. When taking the portraits one major thing is to get the person in front of the camera to relax – this is the only way to get good pictures. If the photographer is tense and panicking everything will start to go sideways.
So there I was, wearing my mask, being highly energetic yet also a bit nervous about all the people around me (everyone respected the social distancing 100%, so no worries from that perspective). I wanted to work as efficiently and precisely as possible and tried to “keep up the good vibes” to get great content. In similar situations before (with way less stress factors) I have tended to make multiple spelling mistakes, stumble with faulty tagging, have difficulties in keeping the focus and as the biggest challenge: I have often turned into a “human monster” who is anything but sharing good vibes.
But this time I paid attention to how I breathe. I tried my best to keep breathing calmly through my nose, both inhaling and exhaling, with my mask on. I had fairly high expectations but yet I was surprised. During the whole day I made only ONE spelling/tagging -mistake and despite the fairly exceptional circumstances I was able to achieve the content goals I had.
The nose breathing surely does not solve all of our problems but I am now highly convinced that in a situation where I need to maximize my potential, nose breathing surely is one of my “secret weapons”. So let’s try to remain as zen as possible, keep collaborating with each other and breathing through the nose.
P.S. Ketonen wanted to thank everyone who joined the Virtual Live and he is thrilled that this topic appears to be trending now. In case you wish to get Ketonen to speak to your shareholders, the easiest way to reach him is via businesshealers.fi
The writer of this post Akira Ahola works as a Marketing & Communications Manager at Wunder in Finland. Her first steps on a path to IT-world were joining Future Female’s events and building networks there – and then soon her passion for building more equal world became a dream job in a company that believes in building digital that belongs to everyone.