Every morning, when you catch that 8:00 am train on the way to work, for example, the pattern is the same. Find a seat, put your headphones in and watch for your stop. If you cast your eyes around the carriage you’ll see rows of people plugged in to their laptops or phones to fill the quiet of that early morning ride. For a lot of us, even in our down or quiet times we are looking at a screen or listening to a song.
We use noise to drown out noise
Whether its Netflix or Spotify, we’ve found our ways to inner calmness in the chaos of the outside world. Ideally, we would feel calm and peaceful most of the time. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, life can get in the way of our pursuit for peace. In fact, many people with busy lives find it impossible to switch off as the constant noise becomes their normal and quiet becomes foreign and strange.
Why does this matter? Well, this constant noise and connection means that our reactions to people and situation can change. In not allowing ourselves time to think and reset, it can affect our interactions and our relationships negatively. We’ve all been in situations where we’re surprised by our own reactions to something someone says or does. Learning to read and understand your reactions can give you an insight into yourself and help you to better navigate the day-to-day.
You are how you act, not just how you believe ~ Mitch Albom
There is a direct correlation between how conscious we are to how peaceful we feel. In our journey from unconscious (where we are unaware of our thoughts and emotions that drive our behaviours) to conscious, (where we are aware of our inner thoughts and emotions, allowing us to make choices around them) it is our reactions that are the key.
If we react negatively to someone else’s behaviours, it’s usually a sign that there is some unresolved emotion in us created by our conditioning that has come to the surface for healing. Being disengaged with the present means we are often seeing and reacting to things based on their immediate surface value without considering all sides and perspectives. Taking the time to centre yourself in the moment can help you to better mediate your interactions and help you to behave more positively.
So the next time you have a spare 15 or 20 minutes, unplug your headphones, shut your laptop and give yourself space. Space and time to re-centre yourself. Sometimes just sitting somewhere quiet and giving yourself that empty time can be extremely therapeutic and make you feel less stressed and anxious. Downtime can make the “doing times” better.
Replay your reaction
A reaction is a survival mechanism that is triggered in certain situations by the way our brain perceives an issue. It takes place in our amygdala, a nut-shaped structure that sits at the base of our skull, located in the middle of our brain. It assesses the environment for signs of danger through the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
The amygdala is part of the limbic system, associated with emotions such as fear, rage, anger, pleasure, and fight or flight. Through emotional association to past events, the amygdala scans the environment for situations that create stress. Where it perceives danger, it will react in the way of fight-or-flight.
This survival system is lightning-fast, providing an immediate subconscious reaction to an event. You know when a reaction has taken place when you feel an emotional charge and can sometimes feel a loss of control or consciousness. Your heart rate quickens, your breathing is more rapid and you may feel shaky or light-headed. These changes create a charge of energy to allow you to escape the immediate threat or danger. An overactive survival response may have helped you in childhood, but rarely does it help in adulthood. As an adult, you can often be left feeling out of control, confused, and frustrated.
Sometimes we are puzzled by our own reactions to certain situations as we are unaware of the feelings under the surface that may be influencing us. We don’t want to be caught in situations where our reactions reflect our true thoughts or feelings, so being more in tune with your feelings can help in preventing this.
You are your own cheerleader
Part of the survival response is due to diminishing frontal brain activity, which makes it harder to think clearly. Therefore, when the amygdala is overactive, we are likely to overreact to a stimulus rather than provide a measured response.
When you react to a situation rather than respond, it is an excellent opportunity to develop greater awareness of your behaviour. It is common for people to blame others for their reactions, yet another person cannot be responsible as your feelings are something that occurs inside of your body. By taking full responsibility for your reactions, you can begin to step into your empowered self. We are able to work through that reaction and take one more step on the journey towards wholeness when we take responsibility for how we feel.
It’s important to remember that you and only you, are in charge of your emotions. No-one else can dictate your thoughts and feelings without your consent.
If you blame someone else for your feelings, you will not learn and grow from your experiences. This will result in a self-perpetuating cycle of reaction: a cycle that is often painful and creates emotional unrest.
So what can you do?
There are some simple steps you can take to make sure your actions are a positive manifestation of your sense of self. It’s like handing in a project at work for example—you want to make sure the presentation reflects your efforts and your inspiration. Just like you use careful formatting and editing in your assignments, give yourself the time to reflect on the way your are engaging with others to ensure that you are being presented in the best possible light.
Hot Tips to Respond Rather Than React:
Switch off: Often a lack of presence and consciousness arises from constantly being connected or switched on. Forcing yourself to unplug, disconnect and recalibrate is the first and most important step. The next time you go to get a coffee on your lunch break, put your phone away, just enjoy the quiet. Or on the train ride home just enjoy the view and give yourself time to properly wind down.
Read yourself: Sometimes we don’t realise that we are carrying tension or stress until it manifests itself externally. In this case learning to observe and read your own reactions is valuable in preventing the problem from becoming worse. Take the time to figure out what situation or idea is causing the feelings to build up. Talk to the people around you, or perhaps even seek professional help from a counsellor, coach or mentor, to help you better understand yourself. A range of Blisspot online support can be found here.
In the end…
Take it easy: Making changes in life can be daunting, so it’s important to remember to be easy on yourself. You are you own powerful tool for change but you don’t want to add to your stress further. Keeping realistic expectations and implementing changes gradually will be more beneficial for you in the long term.
Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act ~ Bob Dylan