Keeping the Mental Mess in Check

Making order of the chaos living in our heads
Unhackable Mom Doreen Steenland

We’ve all been there!  Your co-worker says something that shakes your confidence in your competence!  Most times, you are rocking your career and motherhood, not thinking twice about that comment, but occasionally it strikes a nerve and TODAY is that day!

The comment triggered something deeper and you can’t figure out why!  All you know is that you are now feeling like you are not enough, you are not doing enough, and what you do will never be appreciated. It hits all the guilt and shame alarms in your brain, and you suddenly feel this overwhelming rush of anxiety come over you! 

What’s happened?  Your brain has been hacked! When you are hacked you’ve allowed an outside influence unauthorized access to your brain! (Kary Oberbrunner, Unhackable).   It’s sneaky how it happens, but the truth is we get to choose what we allow to have access to our thinking.  At the time, it doesn’t feel like a choice at all, but with a few simple thought modifications, you can learn to tame that shame!

When I say, taming the shame, I’m not suggesting to stuff the emotions and pretend those feelings didn’t come up.  No, that’s a recipe for disaster (PS. Stuffed emotions always come back to haunt you at inopportune times).  

What I am suggesting is evaluating those thoughts and feelings from a different area of your brain! It is the idea of challenging your thinking. 

One of the areas of the brain that gets triggered with these big emotions and automatic negative thoughts, is the area that works on autopilot! It’s in this area of the brain that those thoughts and emotions keep looping round and round in our heads, keeping us stuck. By accessing the area of your brain in charge of executive thinking, you can turn this shame right around, without stuffing your emotions. 

The first thing you must realize is that your thoughts and emotions always travel together and affect each other.  So let’s look at a few steps to tame that shame!

Step 1:  Take Five: Yes, you heard that right.  Stop what you are doing and take some intentional deep breaths.  When we have stressful emotions and thoughts, we tend to breathe shallow and quickly, which only increases our feelings of stress. When we slow down and take those deep breaths, it relaxes our muscles, slows our heart rate and your brain sends out the feel good hormones.  This interrupts the automatic stress response that is going on in your body. Multiple studies have shown it is beneficial to move your body or get out in nature to reset your thinking. 

Step 2: Pause and Ask Yourself Questions: When you pause and ask yourself questions, you are intentionally shifting out of the autopilot area of your brain to the executive thought area. 

Ask: What just happened?  What are the facts?  What assumptions am I making? What’s true? What am I missing? How did these thoughts make me feel?  How do I want to feel? What are the options here? What would be my next best choice or decision to make? How else can I look at this situation?

Step 3:  Notice your discoveries.  Don’t judge them.  Don’t condemn yourself, just notice.  Observe your answers for patterns.  Notice if you can detect the exact trigger.  Understanding what is happening is very empowering and gives you a sense of control in the middle of the situation.

Step 4: Evaluate your answers and decide what will best serve you and those involved.  For example, how does it serve you and others to show up with insecurity?  When you show up with thoughts and feelings of insecurity, how does it affect your work?  Do you respond by shrinking back, puffing up, or lashing out?  

Noticing your internal landscape and answering these questions gives you the competitive edge that will empower you to be your best, even in the face of your own internal triggers.  Managing your own thoughts and emotions with intentionality is your superpower.  

The truth is, the more you practice this aspect of managing your thoughts and emotions, the quicker it becomes for you in the face of challenges. It will become a good habit you can quickly turn to in the middle of the mess.  

Ask yourself: What is my biggest trigger and how do you deal with it?

Doreen Steenland is a Transformation Neuro Coach who changes brains, one thought at a time! As an ICF Transformational Neuro coach she uses neuroscience and coaching to harness the power of our brains.  She empowers working moms of teens, tweens and twenty somethings, to quit the guilt, create balance and BE present for what matters most!  As founder of Living Full Life Coaching, she is a working mom of three amazing young adults who is happily married and lives in New Jersey. She enjoys golf, tennis, hiking, biking and walking in her spare time.

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