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What’s your score?

You know, the number of times ( especially lately ) you’ve hit ‘Send’ on an email or text that was terse and instantly regretted it?  Or, how about the number of times when you’re working at home and your spouse or child interrupts to ask what they KNOW is an important question?

Or you find yourself bristling, then feeling badly, because you were snippy and more impatient than you’d typically be? It’s even possible you’re aware of these types of reactions, sense them in the moment, only to ‘forget’ the truth you just experienced.

All normal.

Early in my career while studying the effects of trauma on our well-being, I learned a catch phrase from my supervisor, a war veteran himself, that describes our current situation perfectly: “ Post traumatic stress disorder is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances .”

What would be considered ‘normal stress’ has ramped up over the past several years.

Our world is at once more connected, yet smaller; most of us running at fever pitch with downtime feeling out of reach.

This all leads to increased levels of felt stress: physical symptoms like difficulty sleeping; emotional symptoms like increased irritability and anxiety; mental symptoms like trouble focusing and decision-making; and spiritual symptoms like feeling hopeless and without purpose.

In 2019, senior leaders at a Fortune 500 company were asked, “What’s the biggest personal barrier you face in leading more effectively?”

The answer popped up quickly, resonating among the group, “ Being too reactive.”

Truth is, you don’t have to be in the top leadership position at a Fortune 500 company to lead. You may be leading your family, small business, non-profit organization or foundation, department within larger organizations, or as a volunteer or advocate.

What we have in common is that we’re feeling more reactive.

 

 

 

The constant ping of connection all day, multiple tasks to juggle, real engaging conversations required of each of us–all of this impacts, even threatens, our well-being – not to mention the value we bring to the table.

And that’s on a good day! Before COVID-19 came into our lives.

Before the protests against civil rights violations moved front and center. Before the impacts of climate change became obvious in our everyday lives.

We can’t deny, nor should we, that we’re reactive. Moved. Troubled.

More than ever, we can find ourselves becoming stranded in survival mode vs. thriving at life mode.

As psychobiological human beings, we’re wired to react quickly under threat, to scan the environment in order to stay safe, protect ourselves, and stay connected. That’s normal too.

Lately, when we react with feelings of frustration & irritability, increased anxiety and overwhelm – we’d do well to acknowledge the simple fact that these are indeed abnormal circumstances .

They’re unprecedented in terms of the level of real uncertainty, which can easily inhibit our connections with others and performance at work.

We can end up feeling isolated, disconnected, de-energized, even burnout. In fact, unaddressed, these feelings can eventually lead us to burnout – the last place we want to be in to function well!

So, what can you do?

Create a Renewal Plan .

 

Creating your Renewal Plan and following it will renew your energies and grow your resilience, whether you’re a CEO or you’re working remotely with toddlers underfoot.

The thing is, you’ll want to customize it for yourself.

Here are the steps to begin:

Recognize: Catch yourself reacting. Notice and name your experience, with a focus on acknowledging emotional feelings, thoughts, physical or bodily sensations.

It might sound like: “What about this doesn’t s/he understand?!” or “I feel another headache coming on. It’s no wonder since I don’t get a moment of peace.” or “Ugh.Why is my family so helpless?”

It might feel/look like: Tension in your shoulders, chest or jaw. Shallow breathing. Exasperated sighs. Stress eating or drinking. Increased yawns. Headaches or digestive issues. Anxiety.
Reflect: Good catch!
Now, take 3 deep, cleansing breaths and release your tension, allowing your biology to calm.
If you can stay with your experience for 90 seconds, your biology will calm down, the neurochemicals that became activated will subside. Your head will clear. Then, feel your feet, to ground you in the present moment.
Reframe:  With your head now clear, come up with at least 3 other explanations for what’s going on in the situation at hand. Hold them as equally plausible as your own view.
At times simply calming your body isn’t enough because the survival emotions keep re-arising, often accompanied by a voice in your head.
You want to be able to reframe and create a new neural pathway for responding in choice vs. simply reacting.
Respond: Now you can choose your response. What is the best right action in this moment?
Remember, how you can be followed upon later. You can do some investigation, change a process, establish a boundary, delegate.
Reset:  Here you’ll bring all your attention to bear on your new response.
For example, “In this situation _____________, I acknowledge that I was triggered. I felt ____________, I thought _____________, and I wanted to/did act like _________. I was at the mercy of my survival mode reactivity.
Now, I choose to see the situation this way __________________________, to feel _____________ on purpose, to act this way_________________________ in order to reset myself and to respond purposefully.
Follow these steps to move from reacting and surviving, to renewing your energies and thriving. . . even during these most abnormal circumstances .