Think about the last time you experienced stress. Did it seem that your blood pressure went up in less than a second after a situation happens? While it often seems that we have no choice in our response, we do. To stop stress (or at least slow it down so we can come up with a better solution than screaming), you can intercept the stress cycle at any number of the steps along the way.
In previous posts, we talked about noticing your response to stressful situations. Once we recognize right when it happens, we can stop stress or slow down our reaction by taking a few deep breaths or walking away (thus, allowing time for a better response). Then we can check our perception to make sure we have the situation correct. And, here’s the next video in the sequence – how to change your emotional response. Because when you change your emotional response, you also change your reaction.
Stop Stress by Changing Your Emotions
And, to do that – we first need to identify your emotional response. We often tend to say that we’re feeling “angry” or “mad” or worse, but I think it helps to look for the real emotion. For example, are you feeling disappointed? Discredited? Embarrassed? Impatient? Neglected? Overworked? Overlooked? Used? Just identifying the emotion helps you change your response. Try to journal about what you’re feeling…and come up with another way (other than anger) to resolve your situation.
Oftentimes anger comes from feeling out of control. But, if we do something about it, we feel more in control. But that’s just one way to change our emotional response.
A couple of years back I was presenting a stress management program to the city bus company in San Antonio. Most of the attendees were those that handled the phone calls about the service and schedule. And, think you can imagine, rarely do people call customer service with a compliment. Most are complaints.
A woman shared her story. While she had been aware of her high blood pressure for many years, on her last doctor’s visit, he warned her that it was so high that she needed to do something drastic since the medications weren’t doing enough for her. He even suggested quitting her job.
Instead she thought about what was stressing her about the job – it was because she was taking the complaints to heart so she decided she needed to change her emotions around these calls. And this is how she did it.
She called it cartoonizing. She didn’t just listen to the complaints, she closed her eyes and tried to visualize the story in a cartoon format in her mind. She told me about this call she got from an older woman. Close your eyes and see if you can cartoonize this:
“This morning it was raining cats and dogs. So I got to the bus stop early to get a place under the cover. And, as soon as the bus pulled up, everyone pushed and shoved to get on the bus first. The driver was in such a rush that he actually closed the door on my arm and started to drive away – and dragged me to the corner.”
Were you able to visualize that? What color was the bus? It doesn’t matter for the story, but I’m amazed at how many people imaged a yellow school bus. LOL.
Anyway, the strategy worked. She redirected her emotions by turning the call into a story, not a personal attack. Plus she more clearly remembered all the details she needed to follow-up on the complaint.
Cartoonizing may not work for all your situations. But, think of a creative way to redirect your emotions. Give it a shot – and let me know what works for you.