Maria here… I recently experienced a crisis, when I had to quickly evacuate my home, as a terrible wildfire swept through my community in southern Oregon. Thankfully, I’ve since been able to return home. Across the nation, crisis upon crisis is occurring — wildfires on the west coast, hurricanes in the east, and we still have COVID-19. Both the best and the worst qualities tend to surface in these intense moments. Are you always happy with the way you react?
To deal successfully with a crisis, you really must find a way to empower the leader within you. Not every crisis we face is life-threatening. They take different forms in our personal and professional lives. For many of us, the ingrained reactions seem to fall within Fight, Flight or Freeze.
These responses can hardly be called value-driven! Under stress, your amygdala triggers the release of neurotransmitters and hormones – like adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol — preparing you to survive an immediate danger. And when you’re dealing with chronic stressors, your body remembers and responds emotionally and physically in a default manner; your amygdala becomes trigger-happy, causing you to react impulsively, in a way you may regret.
To counteract this, retrain your brain to PAUSE.
Pausing gives your prefrontal cortex a moment to integrate the information from your amygdala with other information. Your brain can connect with your purpose and goals, giving you clarity of what action needs to be taken next. It puts you back in power. You get to choose how you’ll react.
Case in point is the story of how one of my neighbors handled herself during the evacuation. As soon as she smelled smoke from the nearby wildfire, she quickly visited all the neighbors to make sure everyone escaped. Without emotionally reacting and trying to save her own house and possessions, she chose to act in harmony with her values. Later, when I spoke with her, she was happy that she had been able to hold to her values under pressure.
How would you answer this question:
When confronted with a crisis, I tend to_________(Freeze? Run for cover? Come out swinging with anger?)
We all have embodied responses that we’ve adopted over the years. It’s important to be honest in your self-assessment. Only then can you change your response by choosing a new and updated one, which you will need to practice deliberately until it becomes second nature for you.
This process starts with changing your perception of the situation. Observe your reactions with compassion, curiosity and mindfulness. In what ways could you bring more positive states of mind, like curiosity or humor, to a stressful situation? This simple mindset shift is a powerful tool to help calm you down physiologically.
Another powerful tool is called “Flow” or “getting into the zone.” Flow comes from a total engagement in a task that fully challenges the skills you know you have.
Here are four steps to move into Flow, which is a much healthier and productive response:
- Become aware of what response you have embodied early on.
- Observe when and how it gets activated.
- Bring mindfulness and compassion and acknowledge how that response protected you in the past.
- Practice your new response.
A practice of mindfulness will help you develop a deep self-awareness enabling you to notice, identify and accept your feelings and thoughts, as you experience them. This puts you in charge, not your emotions, which are neither good or bad. They are sources of information.
Make a practice of asking yourself questions like these, with curiosity and without judgment…
- How does this situation make me feel? (Happy; anxious; etc.)
- How are these feelings showing in my body? (Light and expansive; tight and drawn inward; etc)
- Why is this happening? (The tone of voice and words hurt your feelings.)
- What past situation is my mind recalling to make this connection? (This reminds me of the time I was made fun of in school and felt powerless.)
- Is this old story still serving me? (No. I am no longer that girl; I’m a capable woman.)
- How can I integrate the past with the present? (Thank you amygdala for trying to keep me safe, but I’ve got this!)
- What can I do to remain in harmony with my intentions, values, purpose? (Breathe; Stay calm; Let it go; Correct a misunderstanding; etc.)
The precious PAUSE between stimulus and response gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your power. In times of crisis, you’ll hold true to your values and will be able to lead others to safer ground. You’ll avert arguments in the family; keep the team working together through a huge mistake; and find solutions to problems. Master self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management and you’ll be able to handle any crisis with less stress and emotional reactivity, as well as fewer unintended consequences.
We’ll be exploring our leadership and how to ensure that it always reflects our values at our 2022 Women’s Retreat, Bring Forth the Leader Within held on January 15-22, 2022, at Blue Spirit Costa Rica. Don’t you owe it to yourself to become an empowered leader who can handle whatever the future brings? Are you hesitant to even consider a retreat with everything going on? Understandable! Learn about our stress-free cancellation policy and the advantages of planning a retreat right NOW, even if it seems like a dream under current conditions.