February 9, 2021

Thinking When We Are Upset

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Photo by Luz Fuertes on Unsplash

Let’s explore a process that can help us
respond to stressful news
and challenging circumstances.

We often find ourselves in unexpected or undesirable circumstances. And then become reactive and feel that we need to respond immediately. This is because we are hardwired for survival.

Our subconscious systems leap into action to get us to safety. Many of the stimuli and tactics used by marketing, political and news agencies today are designed to trigger this response. And keep us in a heightened state of arousal and fear so that we are susceptible to suggestions and become hooked on the roller coaster of stimulus and response.  

In these circumstances, it is critical to accurately measure the true danger that we are in at the moment. And if necessary, ensure that we are safe. And to also recognize that responding while we are in this state of mind is not the best mindset for trying to identify what is relevant and irrelevant and to develop a strategy that will lead to the best long-term solution and response.  

In addition, because we are often bombarded with these circumstances by the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we become overwhelmed by the volume of crises and quickly move on to the next emergency. We never get to fully analyze and address the story that set us off in the first place. The accumulated impact of this cycle dulls our ability to dispatch half-truths and inaccuracies and erodes our ability to clearly navigate the important parts of our journey and disregard the irrelevant. 

Therefore, I recommend a three-step process
that you may find helps break this cycle.

Rest and Relaxation 

Slow down enough to break the automatic response to danger and take a breath to restore your balance. Focus on your breath as it flows in and out for a few minutes to get yourself back under control.

Acknowledge any feelings that you have, give yourself a moment to name that feeling and then decide what positive way you can let it out – a tear of sadness, determination fueled by anger, or laughter at the absurdness can all be options.

Think about how you can respond creatively to the situation and reach for your better angels. 

Reminisce and Ruminate

Ask yourself if there have been similar circumstances in your life and if so, what were you able to do to move beyond them? What were the consequences of your responses and were they beneficial? Were there lessons learned that apply and are there new lessons here that need to be recognized? What led up to this circumstance and how did I get involved?

This is not a time for placing blame as much as it is, a time for trying to separate facts from fantasy. Is the source of the message that you heard credible or do they have an agenda? Can I research the person/circumstance to find out more about where they are coming from? Have I had other experiences that were triggered by this circumstance? Am I being biased or reacting to a stereotype?

Take a moment to organize all of these thoughts and lay them out until you have a clearer picture of what the real threats are and whether those threats are real or whether they are just symptoms of deeper causes. 

Responsibility and Resolve

Finally, identify whether this is your problem to solve or if you can join with others to respond for the greater good.

Be aware of your responsibility to yourself, your family, and your community and be able to let it go if it is irrelevant. But, be willing to be engaged if it is important. Be resolute to do what you are able to do and to help others who may need your support.

Think about the best course of action to take to address the issues and start there. Remain open to new facts and ideas and set your course accordingly. 

Concludes blog post with image that says "Be Reasonable".

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash


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