In a previous video we discussed how stress is exhausting and that a change in our attitude or response can offer more positive results – and make us feel better. Think back to a situation that escalated quickly after you lost your cool. In hindsight, do you regret how you reacted? Would you have gotten better results with a different response? Because these types of situations unfold so quickly, it’s easy to think that you had no control over how you reacted. But that isn’t true. This blog is about how to stop overreacting by changing your response to one that better meets your needs.
That’s Just How I Am
Perhaps you’re thinking…”What can I do? I can’t help it if this or that gets me stressed.” That’s just how I am.
In that previous video (linked above) I asked you to just notice your response to situations…and notice others’ responses. If you completed that challenge, I’m sure you noticed how many times the same situation affected different people in dissimilar ways. So, we do have an option to respond differently, if we want to. Especially if our stress response is affecting our relationships, our work, or our health.
But because our reaction happens sooo quickly, it’s important to understand what’s happening in that split second.
Think of a “Groundhog’s Day” Event
To help you with this next challenge, I want you to think of a situation that happens over and over again. I frequently refer to this as a “Groundhog’s Day” event. Do you remember that classic 1993 movie with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell? Even if you weren’t around back then, you might have caught it on late night TV. It’s about a newscaster covering the Groundhog’s Day events in Punxsutawney, PA who finds himself in a time loop. He wakes up each morning only to find out that he has to repeat the same day again. Only after he re-examines his life – and changes his hedonistic ways is he able to get out of the loop.
I want you to think of a Groundhogs Day event in YOUR life. Perhaps it’s a stressful situation that happens over and over again with your kids or significant other. Or maybe it’s a reaction to an inanimate thing like our response to bad weather or traffic or whole categories of people we don’t know like politicians, crazy drivers, or rude people.
That Split Second
Keeping that situation in mind, let me share what happens in between the event – and our response.
After something happens…our perception kicks in…evaluating the situation by comparing it to similar situations. Then starts the self-talk where we start talking to ourselves about the situation, which then affects our emotional response. All of this leads to our physical response – what we say or do. And, the reaction from our response then changes or reinforces our perception of similar situations.
Let’s not forget that you’re going to be more sensitive about EVERYTHING if you haven’t had enough sleep, haven’t eaten in a while…or are generally stressed about so many other things like dealing with a health problem, relationship issue, or a financial problem. But, that’s another topic for another day.
So, how can you change your reaction to these Groundhog Day events? The first step to stop overreacting and managing your stress is to give some space between the event and your response.
Here are Some Ideas to Help You Slow Down Your Reaction
- Take a few deep breaths. Just focus on breathing in, and out. Actually feel that breath and slow it down
- Don’t hit REPLY. respond to the email right away…or if you do, draft out a response, but don’t hit send until you’ve given yourself a breather
- Take a break. Excuse yourself to the bathroom or go out for lunch or a snack. It just helps to get away for a bit to think before you respond
- Redirect your energy (and anger, perhaps) somewhere else not so visible. Instead of clenching your hands…try to focus on your big toe, squish it into the ground. It sounds strange, but people tell me it works for them
- Don’t look them in the eye. Instead of looking people right in the eyes, that can really increase your stress levels, look somewhere else on their face. Trust me, you will still appear to be looking in their eyes, but look at their eye brows…at the interesting shapes they create. Notice the blotches or freckles on their face. Or look at their nose hairs…maybe how that booger hangs down and gets sucked back up when they take a deep breath. Ha ha. I always try to find something a bit silly. It really helps me to change my mood
Today’s Reboot Challenge
If you want to stop overreacting, the first step is to find a way to slow down your reaction. Let me know what works best for you!