Are You Working Against Yourself? Last month I talked about the difference between responding to a situation instead of reacting to the emotional distress of a situation. It’s normal to experience times of having a knee-jerk reaction when we feel stressed and uncomfortable. It’s easy to become defensive, frustrated, or even angry. It is at those moments that our behaviors often work against our best interest and cause problems in our relationships. Reacting is a reflexive way to attempt rid yourself of that feeling of discomfort. However, it usually does not resolve a problem, and often makes it worse. Examples of reacting: yelling, sarcasm, blaming, stonewalling, criticizing. Responding requires a pause in order to make an informed decision. It takes noticing that you are uncomfortable, recognizing your choices, and choosing a helpful response for the situation. When you choose to respond, you are more likely to create a better result for your situation, your relationships, your job, and your overall life. The most important step in making this change is recognizing when you are having the urge to react. Being mindful of your body, your thoughts, your voice, and your words will help you to develop awareness. That awareness is the key to making a change in your behavior. It’s the key to changing any behavior. After that, it’s all about being willing to do something different. How to Help Yourself by Responding Instead of Reacting 1. Develop awareness ● Do you have tension in your body or is your breathing faster? ● Are you raising your voice or using a sarcastic tone? ● Are you attacking the other person with “you” statements? If yes, then you are now aware that you are reacting to your emotions and NOT helping the situation. 2. Label what’s happening. ● What emotions and thoughts are you having? ● What do you need and what are your options? ● Verbalize those for yourself to dismiss the urge to react. Use this template: “I feel emotion about situation and I need _________.” “I feel frustrated about waiting in this long line and I need to take some deep breaths.” “I feel angry about the kitchen being a mess and I need help to get it clean.” 3. Recognize your patterns and take care of yourself. ● When are you most at risk of reacting? ● Are you hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely, overwhelmed, etc? ● Are you neglecting yourself in your attempts to take care of others? Self care is not selfish – it allows you to be MORE available to others in your life. Changing patterns is challenging for everyone. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or life stressors, making changes can feel out of reach. Individual, couples, or family therapy can provide you with the guidance, support, and accountability needed to create more peace in your life.