Every day we experience stressful situations that may lead us to act in an unexpected way and to not be who we really liked to be.
Having the ability to control our impulses and manage the stress is crucial for the decision making process won’t be compromise. The skills to cope with stress in a functional way can be developed and Susan David (Psychologist and Harvard Medical School instructor) tells us how we can start doing it.
In high-stress situations, our emotions often lead us to act in ways we later regret. Renown psychologist and Harvard Medical School instructor Susan David offers invaluable lessons for navigating our inner world of thoughts and emotions in her new book, Emotional Agility.
We can easily get “hooked” by our feelings when facing difficulty, says David. “Our thoughts, stories and emotions start to dominate our actions as opposed to our values, intention and who we want to be in the situation.” For example, perhaps you’d like to volunteer to lead a new project at work, but you’re afraid to raise your hand for fear of not being chosen. Conventional wisdom says to push your fear aside and simply force yourself to volunteer. But according to David, research has shown that approach doesn’t work. “The emotions come back.”
Instead of trying to ignore a feeling, David first recommends labeling it specifically. Let’s say you feel you’ve been undermined in a meeting. Don’t generalize about your frustration, perhaps chalking it up to your overall dissatisfaction with your job. Acknowledge to yourself that you’re feeling undermined. This labeling leads to better problem solving, says David.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
If you feel undermined, your first thought might be to shut the other person down. Instead of doing so, David advises creating mental “space” between the emotion and the successive thought. Recognize that you’re feeling the emotion of being undermined and the thought that you want to lash out in retaliation. Viktor Frankl, the neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor, once captured this concept eloquently. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom,” he said.
Once you’ve created that mental space, take a step back and focus on the thought of taking a swipe at the other person. Will you benefit from that action? Even if you’re truly being undermined, you should choose your response wisely. “Emotional agility isn’t about whether you’re right or wrong,” David says. “It’s about whether your behavior is serving you.”
In deciding how to react, consider whether your next move is aligned with your values, or your beliefs about the person you want to be. Maybe one of your values is teamwork. If you feel undermined and decide to lash out, you could do lasting damage to your relationship with that person and hurt your reputation among colleagues. A better approach might be to remain calm during the meeting and speak to the offender afterward to explain that you felt undermined.
Taking all of these steps might sound like a lot to cover in the heat of high-stress moment, and don’t expect to make changes overnight. But using this framework should get easier over time. Simply paying more attention to your emotions and thoughts can make you a more emotionally agile person and set you on a faster path to achieving your goals.
Original article “How To Manage Your Emotions In High-Stress Situations”
by Jeff Kauflin (in Forbes, 2016)