This time of year can be particularly challenging with family dynamics, communication, and feeling reactive so I thought I’d share a process that I have been leaning on a lot lately…
Notice ‘false sense of urgency’
Take an intentional pause
Remember you have a choice
You might walk through this process with me:
Imagine someone who tends to spark the most reaction out of you. Someone who is challenging for you.
Here’s how it looks for me:
The way this person communicates with me usually activates my nervous system. My protective parts go on the defensive and fire up my emotions which gives me a sense of urgency to react (i.e. I need to respond right NOW!) Other common reactions include shutting down, numbing, and going into ‘people-pleaser’ mode.
*If this sounds familiar… you might have heard of the four states our nervous system can go into when we feel triggered or threatened: fight, flight, freeze, & fawn. For more on polyvagal theory and trauma responses, you might find this short video by Dr Nicole LePera and this podcast by Martha Beck interesting.
I have learned the hard way (many times) that despite some short-term relief, reacting from that urge doesn’t feel better in the long run. My reaction usually isn’t aligned with my values (i.e. how I want to show up in relationships.)
Here’s where the process comes in:
First, I have to notice when I feel a false sense of urgency (i.e. the urge to react immediately.)
This ‘urgency’ is actually my internal alarm, pointing me to my activated nervous system and emotions.
Sometimes that alarm, that urge, feels so unconscious and automatic!
However, when I am able to notice it, then I am making it conscious and I have a choice!
I might choose to pause and practice ‘being with’ the alarm in a different way.
My alarm is sending me valuable information. It’s letting me know that something wants to be felt within me.
Rather than reacting in the moment, I might take a few minutes to get to know my alarm.
What does it feel like? Where do I feel it?
Mine feels like a wave of heat moving through my body. I feel my heart pounding, tension in my shoulders & stomach, and tears forming.
I’ll spend some time allowing this emotion to be here and let it move through my body. I might notice what it is trying to tell me.
Often, the feelings link to older emotions… my younger self (‘little Nicole’)… who is devastated, angry, and so disappointed by how things are (especially with family triggers.)
I validate these feelings, without needing the other person to validate them for me…which they do not have the capacity to do anyway.
I give myself time. Do I want to respond? What actually feels important to say? Are there any boundaries that need to be set?
I remember I have a choice. What behavior would be more aligned with my values?
That’s my December reminder, y’all! :)
It’s okay to pause and give yourself time to choose. In fact, it’s empowering!
If this resonates with you and you would like to practice pausing, I’ve created a short 2-minute guided breath to soothe stress anytime. Invitation to use this guided session as your pause.
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