At times such as these, our life is uncertain and each day we are exposed to additional information about the health of our world, communities and families. It is important that we resist reacting and instead we consciously choose to calmly respond.
What is Reacting?
While react and respond are similar words, they mean completely different things. Reacting in stressful times is instinctual and it comes from the unconscious mind. It is a process of operating on autopilot without any filtering. This is when you say things without thinking or you act without considering the ramifications of your behaviour.
What is Responding?
Responding on the other hand is more thoughtful and it involves exploring possible outcomes and thinking through options. It is when you take a step back and weigh the pros and cons of your choices. What would be best for yourself and others in the situation?
What kind of person would you rather be, especially at this stressful time? Would you rather be the type of person who creates a calm and happy environment for yourself and your family or would you prefer to be the kind of person who is a wild card, totally out of control and moving rapidly from one emotional state to another? The key to being calm and collected is to be mindfully present and have awareness of when you have been triggered.
How to Stay Mindfully Present Through Anxiety
So how do you become mindfully present when anxiety has yet again washed over you? The best way is to step back and create some distance, physically and energetically, between the trigger (the event) and yourself. Become the observer of your emotional state and be inquisitive as to why you are feeling that way. Refrain from judging how you feel and instead just accept it and observe it.
It is also good to take a few deep breaths as you allow the effects of the trigger to reduce or fade away. The fading could take a minute, an hour, a day or even a week. Every person and every situation are different. The gift of creating distance when you are triggered is the allowance for you to consciously choose how you are going to respond.
Here is an acronym that I came up with to help myself and my clients in the moment when we are triggered, and we want to avoid reacting negatively. It is AWARE.
A – Awareness
Just recognize that you have been triggered. For example, you are listening to the news and the headline is about a negative prediction about the pandemic and it causes you to feel anxious. This is also a good time to ask yourself, what is actually triggering you. Was it the event itself (the news headline) or was it related to your thinking around the event (the story you are telling yourself about the imagined outcome)?
W – Wait
This is where you give yourself time to breathe and create space. It could be shutting off the newsfeed, hanging up from the phone call, ending the conversation, walking away or any other means to create physical or energetic distance.
A – Accept
Here is where you make sure you accept your emotions and you do not judge them as bad. Remember, a healthy adult feels all of their emotions. Tell yourself that it is ok to feel the negative emotions and that it is normal and appropriate.
R – Respond
This is the big step. Here is the fork in the road. Here lies your opportunity to choose the road that has the best overall outcome. This is where you ask yourself, what is my goal and how can I respond in such a way that supports my goal in the best manner? Evaluate each possible response as to whether it takes you closer or further away from your goal.
E – Energy
Now you move forward from a place of awareness that you can choose the best, healthiest and most empowered response for yourself and others.
Although responding instead of reacting is not easy initially it can become easier with practice. It is unlikely to be responsive all of the time. However, decreasing the amount of time you are reactive and staying centered most of the time is a worthy enterprise. The faster you have awareness of when you are triggered, the faster you will be able to regulate yourself and get yourself back on track.
If you are curious as to how my coaching can assist you in developing your ability to respond instead of react and to keep your life moving forward even in stressful times, request a complimentary consultation.
To our Health and Wellbeing,