I’m sure you’ll agree, our current election cycle is unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history. Sadly, this has been an extremely divisive national campaign. Where and how we receive information, the validity of the source(s), and how we internalize what we see and hear has made a difference on what decisions we’ve made about the candidates. That includes both national and local elections.
When you consider the emotional toll on our country as a whole, it’s pretty staggering. How about on a personal level? Whether you’ve followed the campaign through traditional media, social media (or perhaps not much at all), you may have seen or been a part of some fiery conversations. This isn't really about politics. Instead, it's about what can happen when we're confronted with situations that can bring about less than pleasant reactions.
I’ve seen quite a few Facebook and LinkedIn comments that would have possibly come to blows if the respondents had been in the same room! After taking in my fair share of media (of any type) on any given day, I noticed a definite mood shift. We all have triggers and truth be told, some of mine have been “pulled.” Fortunately enough, on each occasion there came a point where I was able to put everything into perspective.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of personal development and have learned quite a bit about myself. That got me thinking. How do others manage their emotions regarding exposure to the media? To answer that question, I decided to create a short survey to find out for myself. As a disclaimer, it wasn’t very scientific. There were many demographic elements I purposely excluded. It was strictly designed to capture data over a broad spectrum. The survey didn’t ask for details about the individual such as gender, age, education, income, etc. I will say however, based on where I socialized the survey, the majority of respondents were entrepreneurs. This of course may have determined how the questions were answered. The response choices were on a 5-point scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. As a part of my doctoral research, I may decide to expand on this idea, but for now, here are the questions.
- In a typical day, how often do you watch the news on cable, the Internet, etc.?
- How would you describe your mood afterward?
- In a typical day, how often do you access social media?
- How would you describe your mood afterward?
- You have no control over your reaction(s) to the information you receive?
The most surprising response result was number 5. Of the 38 respondents, only 3 said they agree or strongly agree they have no control over their reaction(s). The remaining 34 responded equally between disagree and strongly disagree. In other words, the overwhelming majority felt they do have control over their reaction(s). What I’d like to focus on is how to address the situations where people feel as though they don’t have any control over their reaction(s). While it may go without saying, you are the only one who truly has control over your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Think about that for a moment. You are the only who gets to decide for you! The next time you get triggered (and you will), follow these simple steps to combat stress or angst, and return to a state of peace and calm. It’s what I like to call PBC.
- Pause – more often than not, reacting to something in the heat of the moment doesn’t afford you the ability to actually consider your options. Without pausing, you may be more susceptible to a “primal” reaction. Also, ask yourself if the issue at hand is important enough to “highjack” your mood. Does it deserve the energy or attention you may be giving it? If so, what makes it that important?
- Breathe – there are many types of breathing exercises. One I’ve found to be very helpful is to inhale through the nose and slowly fill your lungs in four counts. Next, hold your breath for three counts (same tempo). Finally, exhale through the lips, expelling all the air in your lungs in eight counts. While doing this, make sure you relax the muscles in your face, neck, and shoulders. Do this three times…try it now.
- Clear – go to your “happy place”, wherever that might be. It could be a warm bubble bath, a sandy beach, or enjoying a cigar and scotch – wherever you want to be. Imagine a physical destination far from where you are, and whatever it was that triggered you. If you like, during the entire sequence you can close your eyes.
Try it now. How was it? I chose the controversial topic of today’s politics but you can apply this to anything that has a tendency to take you out. Practice these steps whenever you feel confronted, stressed, etc. Remember, the control is with you and inside you!
As a certified coach, Reginald works with leaders from the boardroom to the classroom. Whether they are executives navigating the next chapter in their career, or college students ready to embark on the world beyond campus life or academia, he helps them identify what’s been alluding them, and achieve the success they’re looking for.
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