Did you know that when we become stressed, we revert to our primal, animal selves?
You can pretty much tell by the physical symptoms:
Your heart starts racing, your breath becomes short and quick and your blood pressure soars, you can’t focus on anything BUT that issue — all preparing you to either Fight the dinosaur coming your way, Flee the avalanche or Freeze in your tracks to throw off an unsuspecting threat nearby.
Scientists call that your ‘sympathetic nervous system’ – one of mother nature’s great aides to help us survive a physically rough environment during Cavemen times.
Today, even though we’ve left our caves and the only dinosaurs in our life are either a friendly purple creature called Barney or a great big skeleton at the Natural History museum, we still have the tendency to fight, flee or freeze when someone crosses our boundaries, or steals our chocolate bar, or we perceive a threat in any way.
When our bodies automatically switch into this mode we are PHYSICALLY able to do deal with the stress – but mentally – we are not in our best state of minds to make good decisions that will serve us.
Why? well, physiologically – most of your blood is being directed to our muscles , away from our brains — so in simple (vaguely accurate) terms – we are actually ‘stupider’ when we are in Fight-Flight-or-Freeze mode.
So the next time, you get an angry email out of the blue, or your child acts up after a long hard day at work….. try this:
1- Take a Time-Out:
Mentally and physically if you can.
If you are alone, just get up and change the scenery. If you are engaged with someone face-to-face in a heated moment, you can excuse yourself as quietly and politely as you can – assuring them you will resume this conversation as soon as you are able to.
2- Three deep breaths:
I mean really longer and deeper than our normal breathing.
They should look something like this: Inhale – 1 – 2 – 3 Exhale – 1 -2 – 3 (that’s one breath)
Breathing like this – deep and slow -slows down the anxiety and stress and is the only part of the Fight Flight or Freeze nervous system mode that we can actually control.
3- Mental Sweeping:
When you feel your system coming back to normal. (you don’t see the color red everywhere..) Go back and slowly read that bothersome email or try to remember the other person’s exact words. Ask yourself:
What is really bothering me?
Is it what this person said to me. Or what my mind is hearing?
Is it that person’s exact words? or what I’m making those words mean?
What am I making those words/action/sly look — mean?
Is what I”m making those words mean true? Can I be mistaken?
Remember: NO beating on yourself. NO self-censoring. NO telling yourself I can’t feel this or feel that …
4- Reflect & Formulate
Take as long as you can to figure out the root of the pain and stress and yuck and then ask:
What do I need to do, say, think to feel better? (the only business you can control is your own mind and actions – not the other person’s or God’s business)
Then, from a place of peace – formulate your reply. You can even write down your reply or rehearse it in your head.
With Love and empowerment