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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Heavy thoughts? Feeling rattled? Then ACT.......

Did you know we have around 40 thoughts per minute? And linked to many of these thoughts are a vast assortment of emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant? No wonder at times we all feel overwhelmed by the noise in our heads and feel that emotionally, our day is a roller-coaster!

ACT on heavy thoughts

It’s pretty hard to prevent thoughts and feelings. And worse, as humans we’re programmed since cavemen days to have a bias towards the negative – we were on high alert for imminent danger (that lion attack!) and accompanying emotional responses such as fear. Even though nowadays there is a negligible risk of a lion walking through the front door, we are still biologically attentive to disappointment, frustration, sadness, shame, anger and fear…and the list goes on. Instead of battling the lion, we battle ourselves.

So, if we can’t always block our challenging thoughts or prevent our unhelpful emotions, we need to work out how to live with them - without acting on them, stopping doing things we love or living the way we want to, in line with our values or goals.

A well-researched framework used by Coaching and Positive Psychologists is ACT (an acronym for Acceptance and Commitment Training). ACT mixes mindfulness and acceptance strategies from psychology. We encourage our clients to notice their thoughts and emotions, but to let them come and go without “fusing” and becoming entangled with them in an unhelpful way.

Here’s an example of how 3 steps in the ACT process can work for mums.

Scenario: You’ve organised a park play date with some local mums but one thing has led to another and you’re late!

Mummy Self-Talk: “I can never get out of the house on time! I’m so annoyed with myself! I’m a useless mother!”

Step 1.  Diffuse. Reduce the power of painful or unhelpful thoughts. Notice your thought, then distance yourself from it.

  • More helpful self-talk: “There I go again, calling myself a useless mother. That old story ….”

Step 2 - Expand. Notice your emotion. Label it. Make room for it by imagining a vast space inside you comprising this emotion and every emotion you experience (including the pleasant ones), in effect, watering it down.

  • More helpful self-talk: “I’m feeling annoyed. That’s OK. I’ll take some breaths and this feeling can float in the balloon all my emotions, good and bad.”

Step 3 Engage. Start to direct your attention outwards to what you were doing and remember why you were doing it – how is your activity important to you?

  • More helpful self-talk “I’ll grab the keys, my daughter and her shoes as I really want her to have fun at the park and to enjoy a catch up with the other mums who are going.”

In our day to day lives, when we mindfully focus on the task at hand, and when we allow thoughts and emotions to come and go without struggling with them - we enjoy our days more, and allow ourselves to do things that are important to us both now and into the future.

Best wishes from Flourishing Mothers

Flourishing Mothers were inspired by the work of Steven Hayes and Russ Harris

What is Coaching and what would you gain from it?

Much of our human interaction: chats over coffee, long phone calls, walk and talks, is focussed on the happenings of our lives and quite often a good old vent about the issues.  This can be a key element of our closest friendships but Coaching is something a bit different.  Coaching is a directed conversation about positive personal change and the steps to get there.

Now you might be thinking: “yeah, yeah, I chat about changes I’d like to make all the time….”  However, the conversation between Coach and Client puts the focus 100% on the Client.  100% on assisting you to make progress towards goals which are personally meaningful to you.

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Please think about the difference that this type of focus makes.  Your Coach will listen intently to you - without distraction from their kids or their phone, and without trying to tell you about what is going on in their own life.  Your Coach will concentrate on creating an environment where you feel comfortable to open up about your thoughts and dreams for the future.

Dare to dream

In a Coaching session you can experiment with ideas and voice thoughts of change that are still fuzzy but you’re keen to flesh out.  Your Coach can help you unpack the ideas and work out whether they are what you want to move forward with.  Coaching is all about seeking solutions rather than long discussions of the problems.  Once you outline your goals Coaching is about developing a range of possible options and helping you to choose the best path for you at the current time. 

You can wave a magic wand during a Coaching session and conjure up whatever positive future you want.  Once you’ve created a vision of what you want to accomplish your Coach will help you map out a plan and determine concrete actions that feel realistic to you. 

Your Coach is there to support you – to be excited when you are thrilled about something and to offer support and motivation when you hit a roadblock.

At Flourishing Mothers, we believe passionately in the power of Coaching to boost wellbeing and guide positive action.  Our Masters level University training in the fields of Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology allows your Coach to offer ideas and interventions based on the best available knowledge from the latest scientific research and practice.  Your Coach is aligned to professional Coaching associations and has a duty of care for professional and ethical conduct and undergoes continuing education.

We know you deserve Coaching and if you would like to find out more please contact us for a free chat.

With our best wishes

Flourishing Mothers

Important: Some mothers may have mental health issues that make Coaching inappropriate or not in their current best interest.  We are not psychologists not psychiatrists, however we have the training to help understand the signs and symptoms and can support these mothers in finding the right professional help.