Moving from unhealthy to healthy mindsets
Often when we are under the pump, stressed, out-of-balance or juggling too many things we experience negative emotions of some kind (e.g. frustration, worry, anxiety, sadness, anger). When we find ourselves feeling like this, if we are not fully aware in that moment, we will act out of habit, in ways we learned when we were kids.
There are two typical default responses and reactions we have as humans that are unhealthy for us. We must recognize them in order to progress. This awareness will enable us to be more conscientious and then we can choose a third, more healthy option for dealing with challenging situations.
The first unhealthy response to stress is fight or flight.
- >>It is a primitive response to stress and times when our needs aren’t being met.
- >>It is expressed as anger, tension, frustration, hopelessness, helplessness and passiveness.
- >>It may be displayed by being confrontational or by avoiding conflict and pretending nothing is wrong.
- >>It is also unhealthy for our bodies in the following ways:
- >>Increases blood pressure and heart stress
- >>Increases stress hormones that lead to anxiety, addictions and insomnia
- >>Increases blood sugar which may lead to weight issues and diabetes
- >>Decreases the immune system leading to illnesses
- >>Only designed for when our lives are genuinely at risk and we need to either stay and fight, or run away to safety
Take a moment now to do a self-check for the times that you are likely to respond in either fight or flight.
The second unhealthy response to stress is to be reactive.
It is displayed by child-like behaviors that typically get us short-term wins, while damaging relationships and credibility in the long-term. The following are four examples of reactive, child-like behaviors:
1. Being too nice
This is displayed by being overly polite, overly sweet and perhaps using a child-like voice, I’ve even seen batting of the eyelids. It sounds something like, “Pleeaaase can I get the new TV, babe, I love you so much.”
2. Being nasty
This one includes sarcasm, yelling, demanding and raising past arguments. An example is, “I’m getting the new TV, I don’t care what you think” (said with a sharp tone).
3. Playing the victim
This is displayed by playing the “poor me” card, the world owes me one view. Sounds like, “It’s not fair, I never get what I want. You always get what you want. You don’t love me as much as I love you or you’d be okay with me getting the new TV.”
This one is displayed by behaviors such as shutting down, withdrawing, ignoring, being passive and not sharing information with others.
We tend to choose this when:
- >>Our ego is under threat and our self-image is at risk of being damaged
- >>We are defending our self-importance or self-pity
Okay, your turn, have a smile to yourself as you reflect on which of these tactics you have drawn on in the past. Notice to yourself if you are more or less likely to use them in certain types of situations or with certain types of people. Come on, it’s pretty funny, we all tend to play in the patch of child-like behaviors when we don’t get our way. I find that seeing the humor in it, in the moment we observe ourselves doing it, enables us to see it for what it is, an old habit. By doing so, we can choose a more mature, respectful and love-based response next time.
The fabulous news is there is a third, healthy option we can choose whenever we notice stress or pressure has entered our lives. It is called the in-the-moment response.
- >>It is where you choose to observe your reactions before you respond.
- >>It allows you the space to choose healthy responses to every situation—stepping away from habits that don’t lead to awesome results.
It is simple. Just ask yourself three questions:
- What is honestly happening right now?
- How do I choose to respond to this situation so that I remain in-the-moment and respect myself and others?
- What did I learn about myself?
In what situations will you choose the in-the-moment response over old reactive responses?
Christine McKee, a registered psychologist, is director of BE Institute, a psychology consulting and training organization in Brisbane, Australia. She uses a combination of eastern philosophy and modern psychological techniques with her clients in the corporate, private practice, mining, government and not-for-profit arenas. Chris is dedicated to empowering individuals to reconnect with their inner wisdom and in doing so, return to wholeness. Christine is the published author of BE by Design: How I BE Is Up to Me.
Editor: Maja Despot
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