How to stop overreacting and start taking control in 12 seconds

Have you ever wished you could go back in time a few minutes and do-over your reaction to a situation?  Sometimes it would be fantastic to be able to press the rewind button!  We might then be able to respond calmly and thoughtfully, find the right words or action, and overall feel that we were being our best selves.

How we manage our own attention matters

In recent weeks we’ve been running workshops focused on building resilience and wellbeing, discussing these topics with corporate women, a group of teenage mums and local school parents.  What’s really stood out is that how we manage our own attention matters!  If we can create some mental space for ourselves we can better focus on the moment and react in a more thoughtful and deliberate way.  This focus on the present allows us to:

  • Notice our emotions and the story we’re telling ourselves about the situation
  • Re-frame the story to be more helpful to us
  • Choose how we want to respond
  • Help those around us to do the same

Imagine that you’re working from home, trying to meet a 5pm deadline when a fight erupts between your kids that’s just impossible to ignore.  You might well storm into the room and start yelling, which then likely escalates the situation, adds more to your stress, and makes that deadline harder to meet. 

Creating mental space doesn’t take long but can have a huge impact

What if instead you’d been able to take a moment to assess the situation and plan your reaction and words to the kids?  Stern discipline might be needed but making a deliberate decision to issue a punishment feels more empowering than an emotional reaction. 

4 ways to create mental space

So how can we do it?  Different strategies will work for different people and different situations so here are a few ideas:

  1. Learn to do a rapid reset – you can focus on counting your breaths and deliberately slow your breathing in just 12 seconds.  You could also step outside for a moment and grab a few breaths of fresh air.
  2. Can you relish the chaos? – can you look at the situation and see the funny side?  Our lives are often crazy and messy but there’s fun, humour and inspiration that can be spotted in the chaos.
  3. Find your focus – when we’re stressed our minds are racing and it’s harder to make decisions.  If we can slow our brainwaves and focus on the immediate problem we’ll perform better.
  4. Remain in the present – remind yourself to come back to the present moment.  Try to avoid being distracted by thoughts of what could have been, or worry about the future.  Right now the present is where you can make an impact!

And please remember to be kind to yourselves!  Even with plan and practice our good intentions can get derailed, but we can keep on trying to reduce the number of “re-wind” moments.

With love

Flourishing Mothers

PS.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how to create mental space too!  Please offer your thoughts below.

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Stressed out? Toughen up! (by easing up)

Wouldn’t it be liberating to discover we can toughen up in our lives and at work by easing up on ourselves? This idea may be completely at odds with our current interpretations of resilience.  We’ve heard resilience is about toughing it out, flexing our muscles, ginning and bearing it, faking it till we make it, getting down and dirty, no pain no gain, going one more round….and the clichés go on!

But think for a moment what you experience when you try these approaches. Are you more emotionally volatile, less able to think clearly and find it impossible to wind down? Do you get impatient with the kids? Or try to sleep but end up tossing and turning? Getting less done, not more? In truth, toughing it out leads us to stress, overwhelm and burnout. Possibly feeling like you are on the hamster-wheel of life and not enjoying it!

Here’s the issue with this approach. We never recover. Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience. It’s the lack of recovery which holds back our resilience.

Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure

The good news is that resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure. The key to resilience is trying hard, then stopping, recovering, then trying again. We recover by taking short physical and mental breaks. By “oscillating” our energy between work and recovery, we restore our equilibrium – and our brain’s ability to function efficiently, and sustain our wellbeing.

Rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping does not equal recovering. What we need is periods of low cognitive (thinking) activity. When our brains are not full of information or pre-occupied with to do lists. When we are not on Facebook, Instagram, or reading articles on our phones.

How to recharge in short-sharp bursts

So, what’s the best way to recover then? For us busy mums, we need to find ways to restore ourselves as part of our normal routine – rather than making it one more thing to find time for. Here are some ideas. We challenge you to choose at least one of these to incorporate into your day!

  • Every 20 minutes, take a 2-minute break. Stand up, stretch, or a quick walk around the office (and will improve, not slow your productivity). Use an app like Mindfulness Bell, which plays a gentle bell regularly to remind you
  • Switch tasks or projects at work at least every 90 minutes – varying activities uses different parts of your brain. Take at least a 5-minute break between activities. Work from home? -Hang out the washing or collect the mail. At the office? -Head to the water cooler for a leg stretch and chat
  • 5 minutes outside will boost your mood. Even better take a walk with someone around the block. By “taking your brain for a walk” you also increase your ability to retain information and think creatively
  • Take a mid-day break of at least 30 minutes every day. Do not have lunch at your desk. Have it with a friend or colleague, or go outside and look at some greenery while you eat
  • Find your Zen – this doesn’t need to be a long and involved process! Apps like Breethe have 10-minute guided meditations. The 7 Second Meditation app helps you take just moments of mindfulness and breath (surely, we can find 7 seconds?!)
  • Take a break by calling a family member or friend
  • Take the stairs at work instead of the lift (and don’t look at your phone!)
  • Schedule time daily unplugged from your smartphone! Apps like Unplugged can help you automate this if your willpower is low!

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Resilience is like a muscle that we can strengthen

The truth is, we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, but we take short breaks from it and build our resilience to cope with it. Resilience is like a muscle that we can strengthen. But like any muscle, to grow it must be used, then given time off to heal. By taking short but regular mental breaks during the day we recover, ready for our next tasks. We’re more efficient, enjoy our work more, and have more energy for our lives at home too. Remember, life is not a marathon, but a series of sprints!

With love

Flourishing Mothers

Flourishing Mothers were inspired by the work of Sean Achor, Tom Rath and Jim Loehr

Is your work just not working? Here's what to do.

In our interactions with mums, we listen to many different challenges and concerns when it comes to work. These are some common ones. Do any of these sound like you?

  1. You’re unhappy in the job you’re doing. You know you’ve not been loving your job for some time now. It doesn’t feel right and doesn’t work in the context of your family. You’d rather be doing something else and be somewhere else….with your true work tribe.
  2. You’re stressed out trying to juggle work and home responsibilities. Your life feels chaotic and out of balance and you’re not feeling like you’re succeeding at either thing. You’re feeling miserable and have lost your mojo.
  3. You’ve decided you want to move in a whole new job or career direction…. Or to start working again having been away from the workforce bringing up children. You don’t know where to start. You’re paralysed with indecision. You’re overwhelmed by the options.

What to do? Get help with the big picture

Most of us will tend to start by getting straight into implementation mode; looking around job sites, networking, writing our resumes, updating our LinkedIn profiles. But it can feel rather like we’re shooting in the dark at a target we cannot see.

You see, starting with the specific questions, like “what job should I apply for?”, cannot be answered until you know the answer to the big questions: “What’s most important to me?” “What’s my purpose?” “What skills or talents, when I use them, make my heart sing?” “Where and when do I find joy in my life?” Unless we know ourselves deeply, these big questions can’t be simply answered.

If you don't know who you are, how can you figure out what you want?

Herein lies the emphasis of the work that we do with many of our coaching clients. We get you to know yourselves, inside-out. We help you with a process, collaboration and support to answer these big questions. Once you do this, the specific questions then become pretty simple. But it’s not just figuring out what you want and why. Our coaching helps you understand and appreciate your strengths and capacities, because we know that when you use these at work, you will love your job.

And then what? Plan and act

It’s about active planning. Articulating goals which are motivating and exciting to you. Plotting a path towards your goals. Broadening the possibilities. Looking at potential solutions. Taking action. Reviewing what’s working and changing what’s not working. Sticking at it and persevering. All of these things are so much easier to do when you know the “why” of what you are putting your energies and time into, and will help sustain your momentum as you make changes that are authentic.

DIY or call in the cavalry?

With self-knowledge and an awesome plan that is congruent with who you are, it is possible to find work you love. Work that is energy giving, not energy draining. However, in our experience, not everyone can work through a maze of decisions alone, make bold forward steps, commit to action, be resolute in making change.

If you struggle with finding motivation to make change, figuring out your big picture or making plans, and would love a professional to guide you through a process, then coaching may be for you.

Think of coaching as the ultimate investment in yourself. A plan for your life! Finding answers to big questions such as “what am I on this earth to do?”.

Whether you do it yourself, or call us in to help, our joy is to see mothers flourish at work and in life. We hope these tips help you find your path to your work tribe, a life you love and a whole lot of mojo!

With love

Flourishing Mothers