We all find ourselves in situations when we feel stress levels running high and we fear that we are losing control. Here are some self-help tips for keeping a handle on things and getting back to your real self.
We all feel we lose ourselves occasionally, especially during challenging times when stress levels are high.
As humans, our systems are set in ‘stay safe’ mode by default, which often comes at a high cost. Anything in our environment that could potentially trigger this protection system means that we are at risk of reacting rather than choosing.
Reactions come in all different shapes and sizes, but usually fall under the general category of the Flight, Fight, or Freeze response. This could come in handy if there’s a tiger chasing you, burglar breaking into your home, or a tractor-trailer headed right for you.
However, when this system is activated due to an overload of financial, emotional, or even spiritual stressors, the very system meant to protect us, becomes our adversary. Our rational brain literally goes offline. The faculties necessary to deal with the situation become unavailable and ‘we’ go into reaction mode. Anger, fear, anxiety, depression, shame, blame, and the list goes on. Hence, losing our SELF.
So, how do we get back to ourselves? How do we reclaim our thinking, rational mind and get back to a place of choosing and not stay stuck in the self destructive loop of instinctual reaction?
ACT, or Acceptance & Commitment Therapy offers a powerful approach for dealing with some of lifes’ most challenging situations. While ACT is a complete therapeutic system, with a slew of powerful interventions, the basic approach can be summarized by the following 3 principles:
- Be present: by contacting present moment & self
- Open up: by acceptance of the situation
- Do what matters: by connecting to your values & goals
So, let’s give this a try!
Tune in to a situation that brings you stress right now. Try to rate the current distress level between 1-10 (10 being the most intense).
Now you are ready to begin:
- Acknowledge Your Inner World
Notice whatever thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are present & name them in some way: “Anger”, “Anxiety”, “Worrying”, “Daydreaming”, “Beating myself up”, “Tight in chest”, etc.
- Connect with Your Body
Reconnect with your body: e.g. stretch, breathe, move, push your feet down on the floor and feel the pressure under your feet, straighten your spine. Regain control over your arms and legs. Notice 5 things to see, hear, smell, touch, etc.
- Engage with Your Values & Goals
Focus on the things that really matter to you – family, religion, kindness, love etc. Choose 3 things you can act on right now consistent with your values. You may want to make a donation to your favorite charity, sit down with your children to play or have a conversation, or pick up a book that you’ve been meaning to read.
Then go back to step one and notice if anything is different. Cycle through the steps again until you feel more like yourself. Be creative and playful and discover how easy it could be to come back to your senses no matter what situation may arise. Of course, like anything else in life, this takes practice, patience, and persistence – but with determination, you too can get back to Your Self.