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.

creating mental space 040917.jpg