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Friday, January 20, 2012

Train Your Brain to Defuse Tension



Sometimes it comes over you like a sudden inner storm. At other times, it builds up incrementally until you feel like your brain might explode from the pressure. Or it might show up as a pain in your neck or tightness in your back. The experience is tension and we often blame it on what's going on around us at the moment. Whether it's work deadlines, relentless bills to be paid, an argument with your spouse, or the baby crying in the middle of the night when you're craving sleep-we point to what's happening around us at the moment we feel tense and say "that's to blame."
However, what if tension were an inside job? What if you could train yourself in a few simple steps to handle it-to master it and release it? It may not be as difficult as you think. There are three inner steps that can turn moments of tension into moments of self-mastery, peace, and resolution. If you can catch yourself in the moment of tension and apply these three steps, you can free yourself on the inside and turn around any situation for the better.
Step one is recognizing the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that you're maintaining at the moment you feel tension.
Inner recognition is job one. Own your tension and recognize what you are doing that is making you feel that way. To do that, take a timeout the moment you feel tension rising up and taking you over. If you're in the heat of a challenge or argument, excuse yourself, and step out of the situation for a few minutes. If you're interacting with others, assure them that you'll be back in a moment after you've taken a moment to compose yourself.
By taking a break from the action, you've inserted a mental pause in what is happening. You've stopped the situation from escalating and interrupted any reactive patterns that have been triggered. Taking a break gives you an opportunity to step back and observe your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, so you can identify exactly where you're coming from and why it's making you feel tense.
A couple good questions to ask yourself in that moment are:
A. What am I thinking "should" happen right now?
B. What words are running through my head?
These questions will get at the thoughts and beliefs that are controlling your mind at that moment. For example, you might be thinking that something "should" be done a certain way or that someone "should" behave differently. The words running through your head may give you some clues.
Once you've identified what you're thinking and consciously linked it to your tension, you might ask yourself a third question:
C. How does this feel in my body right now?
See if you can locate and describe the emotion and/or physical sensation in your body. Once you've done that, take a few slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to blow off that steam. You can even imagine that you're breathing in and out of the any area of your body that feels tense. That might sound funny, but it can really help.
Now, you're ready for step two: realize that there are points of view other than the one you were holding at that moment.
What you were thinking, feeling, and believing was just one way of looking at things-amongst many. You may feel justified in what you were thinking. It may even hold a key to resolving the situation. However, it will be helpful to you and everyone else involved if you realize that yours is just one point of view-and that there may be other equally valid points of view.
Now you're ready for step three: re-engage the situation seeking a new perspective.
Return to where you were and who you were with and see if it's possible to have a fresh start. A good place to begin is to ask to hear other's points of view. Acknowledge that you lost your cool and ask to hear the other person's perspective. As you listen, make eye contact, nod in acknowledgement of what they say, and repeat back to them what you've heard. When you've truly heard someone else, it widens your perspective and opens them to listening to you in return.
Then, it's your turn to express your perspective (which may have changed) in relation to what they have said. Express what you have to say without blaming. Be as factual and specific as possible and reference how what happened affected you.
You can then move forward to discuss alternatives. Freed from the tension of that preceding heated moment, all parties will probably be more open to come to a mutually agreeable solution.
If your tension arose from circumstances and not from an interaction with someone else, see if you can engage those events from a new perspective. See if you can allow the current conditions to speak to you and show you a solution. Engage what is happening with fresh eyes and pay attention to details you may have previously missed.
Practicing these three steps is a recipe for defusing tension and creating positive solutions:
1. Stop what you're doing, take a break, and recognize where you're coming from at the moment.
2. Realize that yours is just one point of view amongst many possibilities.
3. Re-engage the situation looking to understand other points of view and discover solutions.
The more you practice these three steps, the quicker you'll be able to defuse tension and move forward peacefully and productively. It all starts by pausing and recognizing where you're coming from and then learning to work well with yourself on the inside. For more information on how to reduce tension, de-stress, and grow your inner skills, check out the resources box below.
Are you ready to de-stress, quiet your mind, and relax deeply? Discover how to take your stress management to the next level. For tips and techniques to reduce stress be sure to visit us here.
Kevin Schoeninger graduated from Villanova University in 1986 with a Master's Degree in Philosophy. He is certified as a Life Coach, Reiki Master Teacher, Qigong Meditation Instructor, and Personal Fitness Trainer.
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1 comment:

  1. Very important information provide for stress management....
    Stress Management