You're faced with that familiar feeling. Something unexpected has happened, something that may feel out of your control.
The panic kicks in and you may get that knot in your stomach and a tightness taking over your neck and shoulders. Your breathing is a little short and your mouth drier.
Think back to those times. The very first moments of the panic, what is your default in those early moments?
What were your initial reactions when Covid hit?
Do you begin to over function, your head runs circles in your head focusing one what needs to be done, efficiently and effectively in a way to control the situation, functioning as fast as you possible can, fueled by adrenaline? Taking over as the leader. You want to control the external storm to control your internal storm.
Or, do you under function? Your mind stops working, you want to hide away, protect yourself, longing to close off from the situation in hope it will all go away like a child closes their eyes when they don't want to be seen.
Both of these scenarios are two different coping mechanisms for anxiety. A normal emotion in times of stress. A fear of losing control of the present moment and the future outcome as the mind works overtime forecasting the worse case possible.
Neither two are good or bad, they just are and coping mechanisms we've learnt in our early years.
I'm definitely at the over functioning end, watching my dad over the years shoot into action to protect, guard and shelter his family from worry. As a family, we grew up living the side effects of mental illness with a loved one. There were moments of calm and moments of waiting for the unexpected to happen. Through my dads strength, I know I've learnt resilience and strength but also adopted his coping mechanism in those early moments of stress.
But what if it could be different. What if we could teach ourselves and practice a different emotion when these times come up.
What if we could notice when we begin to feel the stress wash over our physical body and use this as a signal to practice a new emotion.
How would you like to feel instead of panic. Calm? In that moment being able to take a step back and take some deep breaths before you plan your next move or speak your next words.
To calm your internal world first.
Can emotions be practiced the way we practice and learn a new skill?
The shouting and screams of my little two trigger me in each and every moment. Yesterday, my daughter fell on the school pick up, running up screaming with a graze. My moment to practice the calm emotion when inside, I see a small cut and an over reaction to a fall.
But these are her emotions, not mine and she needs me to hold space for her. To be calm so she can process her emotions. Inside, I've had a busy day, I'm tired with a headache creeping in. I have a choice in that moment. Tell her to stop crying, it's only a graze and let's get going or to breath and practice that calm emotion that doesn't come easily to me.
I sat her up on the wall and just held her as she cried.
The time passed and it felt good to know I practiced that emotion. I sill had that resistance and the whinging carried on until bed time.
Can we create habits in these emotions that don't come normal to us. I think we can with repetition. There are going to be times where I don't handle my triggers well as I'm human but with awareness, watching and knowing I have a choice in those moments, I can keep practicing that calmness.
Storms, uncertainty, triggers... they will always be part of our world.
We have a choice in how we think, believe and feel. External circumstances can't make us happy or sad. It's our thoughts about them that will trigger how we feel.
Which emotion would you like to try on and practice?