If you have attended a World Latte Art Championship or checked out some of the archival footage, you will have seen many experienced professional baristas with some very shaky hands. Even in the cafe environment, attempting to pour challenging designs in front of onlookers can be scary and intimidating. The human body’s fight-or-flight response triggers the influx of adrenaline, which can manifest as shaky hands. The trouble with this primal response to stress is that the response can be triggered in relatively unthreatening environments.
The same nervous symptoms are often experienced by trainees pouring in front of their manager; or perhaps when a WBC champion walks into your cafe and the nerves strike. Breathing exercises can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the counterpoint to the fight-or-flight response. A widespread technique practiced by rescue workers (notably, the New York Police Department) is known as tactical breathing. This simple body-hack involves measuring your breaths in 4-second intervals. This can retrigger the body’s ordinary metabolism, which has the effect of suppressing fight-or-flight impulses.
In this video by Trace Dominguez, you can learn to employ tactical breathing.