Big day coming up soon? Stressed, much? Maybe instead of reactive techniques it is worth looking at building some emotion management muscles. At the end of the day, stress comes from nothing else other than emotions, and these are a result of conscious or unconscious assignment of meaning to every single event. I probably don’t have to tell you that this is where anxiety, irritability or mood swings are coming from. So how do we manage that?
First, we need to look at how our brain makes sense of reality.
Imagine you have cake-tasting scheduled and your partner is late or particularly indecisive during that process. It’s not your first attempt to make this decision and you’re a little tired of having to dedicate attention to it.
Having one piece of information, our brain is naturally wired to create an entire story around it. Since human beings are evolutionarily used to predicting the future based on the past, your brain will very swiftly filter the memory for all the past mishaps in your partner’s behaviour and emotions you have associated them with. Having that cognitive load, it will follow an earlier established mental habit, e.g., when people reject me, I cave and become absent.
If in the past you saw people not arriving punctually to meetings with you as a form of rejection, very quickly, your brain will arrive at the conclusion that this is what is happening right now. This in turn will trigger you to follow a behavioural response to rejection, here, switching off, which when looking at it from the perspective of your partner may seem like you are indifferent.
His/her process of framing that observation will begin instantaneously, letting negative vibes brew.
If you’re feeling that emotional tension more often than usual, take time one morning, or evening, to reflect on the broader picture of what is happening. Recall 5 recent situations of frustration or sadness and follow these 3 steps:
Identify a more precise word to describe what you felt. Is it sadness or perhaps disappointment, feeling rejected, feeling unappreciated?
Relate your reaction to a past situation where you felt the same emotion. Was it similar? Is there a pattern you follow when you experience a specific feeling?
How does that behaviour/reaction/thought serve you?
Once you do this initial analysis, you can start working towards REFRAMING the mental habit and communicating it to your partner. This builds your self-awareness and indirectly impacts your ability to let go, recentre and manage your mental health more effectively.