Change Your Reaction Time and Cut Your Stress

Scientists define simple reaction time (RT) as the time it takes for an observer to respond to a stimulus.   When you hit the brakes to save yourself from a fender-bender or worse, when you pull your hand away from something hot, or when you race to grab your grandchild from the street curb, you are relying on good reaction time.  In many sports reaction time is essential.

But in daily life we do ourselves physical and mental damage when we REACT to experiences around us with everything turned to an off-the-charts high.  The dog spilled his food bowl; the paper was late; the computer is super-slow; the auto mechanic cannot get the car fixed today.   Stress and more stress.

John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, priest and philosopher conferred a special responsibility on us when he stated that each one of us is the hero of his own life adventure.  He further charged us to hear the call “to engage our own kind of latent complexity and diversity, our own hidden divinity.” And finally he said, “We are the change we have been waiting for.”

Change.  What does that word really mean?  In a world teeming with complexity, we often talk about change or hear leaders and thinkers sounding its bell.  But in the face of wars and world poverty, unemployment and lack of compromise, real change that could bring us peace and prosperity seems truly unattainable.

Still O’Donohue was leading us on the right pathway.  He saw the possibility of transformation not in the context of a complete world-view, but simply in each one of us.   He wanted us to pull strength from our own complexity and diversity, our hidden divinity.

Let’s take a normal day and see how we could begin to use such talents, find the change within that we need to reduce stress—slow our reaction time. WHAT IF:

  • we let the dog eat the food and do the clean-up for us.
  • we decide NOT to read the paper—less news, less stress.
  • we do some other task or take a walk while the computer increases its pace.
  • we calmly convince the auto mechanic to squeeze us in tomorrow.

For super-charged people that many of us have grown to be—this is not easy.  And it might take months, even years to gradually make the change. Also the examples above are not as stress-producing as other events that can happen in life.  But your efforts to slow reaction time will affect you in a positive way:

  • slow your heart rate
  • lower your blood pressure
  • help you digest your food properly
  • lessen the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream
  • help you think more clearly about everything that follows the stressful event.

Finally, when you consider all the phrases in our vernacular that might be describing YOU like uptight, shorts in a wad, over-excited, over-the-top, reading the riot act, need a chill pill—it would be transformational to change them so that your friends and family refer to you as calm as an evening breeze, so chill; whose motto is don’t worry be happy, and who states firmly don’t cry over spilled milk—and certainly never ever spilled dog food!

For more uplifting words from John O’Donohue go to his Memoriam page at

2 thoughts on “Change Your Reaction Time and Cut Your Stress

    • Alison here are some suggestions to reduce stress and thus cortisol levels in your bloodstream: Deep breathing should come first; you can use guided imagery to relax or just meditate concentrating on your breathing; you can journal about your inner most thoughts, or exercise, do yoga, listen to calming music; sex is also suggested. So good to have you respond. Beth

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