Here are some further ideas for keeping yourself in that Compassionate Mind space, when your Flight/Fight/Freeze system is getting triggered by what is unfolding around you.
- Breathe. Breathe out, then breathe in. Repeat, repeat but no more than 3 or 4 times or you might hyperventilate! Breathing out is important to do first because anxiety or stress makes our respiratory system over-activate. You need to expel air in order to reap the benefit of a calming deeper inhalation.
- Notice your warning signs. Where in your body do you first notice stress, anxiety, fear or anger showing up? Observe the thoughts that accompany those physiological responses. Remember, your body is reacting to a “tiger in the grass” and it needs your thoughts to send the signal that “all is well”. Learn to observe your mind so you can understand your feelings triggered by someone’s behaviour and how you react.
- Ground yourself in the moment. Take a few seconds to notice five things in the room. This is really important if you are preparing to meet a situation you expect to find challenging or difficult (bearing in mind even having that expectation will already have set up your fight/flight alert system!). Notice your feet on the floor, the light through the window, the breeze from the fan, your backside in the chair – then exhale, inhale and move forward with your Compassionate Mind firmly in place as the conductor of your mind.
- Reconnect and rebalance. After the interaction, take a few seconds to ground yourself and reconnect. Unsettling moments unbalance our system; our inner world tilts. It is important not to rush to the next thing on your list. For your Compassionate Mind’s sake, take a moment to acknowledge the difficulty of the interaction, the emotions you felt and managed through it, and then get back on an even keel. This will keep you balanced for whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.
- Debrief and review. Insight is a skill and, like any skill, it takes time, repetition and sometimes guidance from an objective and compassionate helper. To support your growth both professionally and personally, take a moment to review the challenges of your week, either in a journal, with a supportive friend/partner/colleague or in a more formally arranged space with professional supervision.
- Learn your ways when under fire. Understanding your triggers and how you react under certain circumstances is a source of great wisdom and strength. Once you know yourself, you have far greater control over how your inner world impacts on the splash you make in your outer world. Have a look at the following and discover something new about yourself today!
Read: Matthew McKay PhD, John P. Forsyth PhD & Georg H. Eifert PhD, Your Life on Purpose: How to Find What Matters and Create the Life You Want
Steven c. Hayes, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Expand your emotional landscape. Many of us have never been taught about healthy ways to get our emotional needs met, or even that our needs matter in a relationship. This can lead to ineffective coping mechanisms as we mature and circumstances change. When we’re stuck still using “ye ole tools in the kit bag”, we hold ourselves back from taking full advantage of what can come next for us.
Good places to start to get to know yourself include mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy, compassion-focused therapy, schema therapy. Most of these approaches have publicly available self-help resources, videos, YouTube clips, and exercises online.
If you would like to know more about keeping yourself in that compassionate mind space, consider arranging a mentoring session with me to start designing your action plan: email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
All the best, Rebekah Doley | Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
BA(Hons) GradDipPsyPrac MSc(InvPsy) MJur(Law) MPsy(Clin)/PhD
Registered Psychologist (AHPRA) | Chartered Psychologist (BPS)
Accredited Mediator | Accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (NMAS AUS