Be ResponseABLE, not ResponsibleNov 22, 2022
There are many ways our stress response (fight or flight) is evoked and narrows our focus and attention to our physical survival. When we get triggered by the news, feel criticized, make a big mistake or find ourselves in a familiar negative situation, our bodies get tight, poised for action, and we are primed to look for danger.
Has that ever happened to you? (haha!)
You will be happy to know that it doesn’t take too much effort to exit the fight or flight loop and allow our nervous system to prepare to handle the stressor. Our best solutions will emerge from a balanced state where our bodies and minds are open, ready and curious.
How to interrupt the loop:
Take a deep breath.
First question: Am I ok, right now?
Look around. If you are in true, immediate physical danger, (i.e., there is a saber tooth tiger running at you), then your nervous system is doing its job correctly…RUN!!
If you are okay right now, take a breath and read on…
Take another deep breath.
Do I have food today?
Take another deep breath.
Do I have a place to sleep tonight?
If you are safe in the moment, then a stressed nervous system state is not likely your most resourceful.
Our human nervous systems are wired for the type of survival that takes muscles and action. While that is needed in some situations, many of the current problems that cause us stress are not best solved this way. Most of our modern problems are not about our physical safety and are better handled with calm, presence and being response-ABLE.
Imagine these two scenarios and notice where you would feel more ABLE to respond:
- You walk out the door, focused on the problem, feeling stuck and overwhelmed, thoughts running in loops...where are your eyes focused?
- You walk out of the door, open, relaxed, curious...where are your eyes focused?
Like a tennis player waiting for a returning ball, we are going to have the best interaction with the ball speeding toward us if we are calmly and alertly agile; flexible, trained and ready to move in any direction.
We have found that the most resourceful state for responding to modern problems is one of creativity, compassion and courage.
(Exercise for when you have a little time)
Find a quiet place to sit where you feel safe and comfortable.
Try this Switching Exercise:
Bring to mind a stressful event or situation in your life. Imagine it clearly and all the feelings that it triggers.
Then, switch your attention to the safe and comfortable place you have found for yourself above.
Notice that you are ok.
Notice something in that space that you are grateful for.
Notice how you feel… and then breathe again.
Bring back to mind the things in your life that are causing you stress.
Notice how you feel.
Notice what you notice.
Switch back to the quiet comfort of your present space. Breathe.
Feel gratitude for something in that space. Breathe.
Notice how you feel…and then breathe again.
This simple switching exercise is powerful in helping you realize that you can actually choose to be stressed about this situation, or NOT.
Our very best creative, courageous and compassionate actions and solutions come from a place that is NOT stressed.
Stay in the comfortable space.
From a calm nervous system, we can begin to access all our experience and knowledge - not just from the information that we have linked to the stress highway.
From a calm state we can connect to our innate creativity and think of how the different innovative ideas will impact us, those we love and our communities. From a compassionate place we can move from our hearts and express our most heartfelt values and passions. From courage, we can act on these creative, compassionate ideas and safely be our authentic selves. From a calm state, we can evolve our worlds.
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