Chapter 3: Stress and Resilience

The next chapter delves into the topic of stress and resilience, and I’m thrilled to share it with you. Feel free to incorporate your captivating client stories and travel adventures as we explore the chapter. I must mention that every chapter in the book is accompanied by a tale from Melo’s own travels. So, in this particular chapter on stress and resilience, he begins with an account of his visit to the Varungan National Park in Rwanda.

During his travels in Rwanda and Uganda, he had an ardent desire to witness the gorillas in the high mountains of the region. Despite the political unrest in the area at the time, his determination led him there. Venturing into the mountains, guided by a team armed with machine guns and machetes, the journey was perilous. As they trekked through the dense vegetation, he  couldn’t help but feel the stress building up within him.

Eventually, they stumbled upon a family of gorillas halfway up the mountain. The adrenaline surged through his body as a massive silverback gorilla mock-charged towards him. Adhering to the guide’s instructions, he looked down, feeling the fight-or-flight response overwhelming him. However, as the gorilla passed by, he stole a glance at its captivating eyes, and an unexpected sense of peace enveloped him. The encounter with the gorilla family turned into an extraordinary experience that lasted for hours.

Unfortunately, heavy rain interrupted our interaction, and the gorilla mother led her family into the bushes. Curiously, the guide encouraged them to follow. They timidly trailed the gorillas into the bamboo thicket, surrounded by these magnificent creatures just a few metres away. It was a surreal and slightly nerve-wracking experience. At one point, another silverback gorilla, even larger than the previous one, approached them, instigating another surge of adrenaline. Yet, once again, he found himself captivated by the gorilla’s presence, and a sense of calmness washed over him.

This encounter highlighted the significance of the fight-or-flight response. While it is an essential survival mechanism, it is not designed to be activated continuously in our modern lives. The constant bombardment of stress triggers, be it emails, work pressures, or social media, can wear us down and potentially lead to burnout.

That’s where the breath comes into play. Self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate are crucial in preventing burnout. The breath acts as a powerful tool for self-regulation. By breathing slowly, especially on the exhale, we can trick our body into a relaxation response, calming the amygdala, which triggers the fight-or-flight response.

Interestingly, I recently read about the natural human tendency to sigh approximately every five minutes, which serves as the body’s way of releasing stress and cortisol. However, the constant stimulation from social media and emails can disrupt this natural mechanism. To counteract this, a breathing technique involving two quick inhales followed by a long exhale can induce a physiological sigh and aid in self-regulation.

Dr. Andrew Huberman and others have explored the benefits of this technique, and even just a few repetitions can have a profound impact. Incorporating these breathing exercises into our daily routine can help us navigate the stresses of modern life and cultivate resilience.

I appreciate the opportunity to share Melo’s story and discuss the breath’s remarkable ability to untangle the stress response. Your own experiences, along with the captivating tales in the book, truly bring these lessons to life. Breathing exercises offer a simple yet potent tool to turn down the stress response and foster well-being in our fast-paced world.


Disclaimer: This blog post is an overview of Melo Calarco’s book, and we highly recommend reading the complete work to delve deeper into the transformative power of self-awareness.

Purchase the book here.


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