I’ve talked before about the importance of emotional agility and I wanted to come back to the topic to consider some specific examples in more detail.
The first step in developing emotional agility is to notice when you’ve become entangled in knee-jerk ‘hook’ in which your thoughts, emotions or stories drive your behaviour. It can be hard to do but there are certain common signs that you can keep an eye out for. Here are some of the hooks you might have experienced:
This is where you treat your thoughts as facts and base your behaviour around the perceived reality they present: ‘I thought I would sound stupid so I didn’t say it.’
When you imagine scenarios and run them through in advance rather than experiencing them in the moment: ‘I’m going to tell him just how frustrated I feel when he inevitably criticises my parents at dinner tonight.’
Old, outgrown ideas
The practice of relying on old, obsolete patterns to see you through current issues or obstacles: ‘I probably won’t get the promotion because things never go my way.’
When your sole focus is to prove you’re right, at any cost: ‘I’m not going to let my sister win this argument. No matter what.’
When you notice these hooks are in play, take a few deep breaths. This will help to calm down the fight-or-flight response activated by your sympathetic nervous system and allow you to engage the area of your brain that deals with rational thinking.
Another trick for gaining a little distance from the situation in order to approach with reason and perspective is to focus your attention on your senses. Take a moment to really concentrate on the back of your hand; notice the pores in your skin, any subtle colour differences you can see, what you can feel with your fingertips. This activity will have the same grounding effect as taking a few deep breaths.
Flex your emotional agility
Once you’ve given yourself the emotional and physiological space for a shift in perspective, you can then identify which particular hook you have become enmeshed in. The simple act of noticing will help you to choose an alternative way to respond and let you unhook yourself.
Having identified and labelled the hook you can accept the thoughts or unhelpful pattern of behaviour and then act based on your values, without allowing your emotions to drive your behaviour. Developing the emotional agility to help you overcome these intrusions to your thoughts is a fundamental element of having a growth mindset and will ultimately have a strong impact on your overall wellbeing.
If you want to learn more about building emotional agility and my approach to handling stress, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07837993241 and let’s get the conversation started.