The Art and Science of Keeping Your Cool
Notes, Ideas and Suggestions for Your Consideration, by Jerry Posner
“Stressing Out” — experiencing high levels of worry, tension, anxiety. Anticipation of something “rocking my boat.”
“Losing Your Cool” — ranting, raving, yelling, raging, temper-tantrums, hissy-fits, snapping, having a meltdown.
What sorts of things might cause one to “stress out?” For example: Changes in routine. Deadlines. Running late. Feeling overwhelmed by choices or tasks. Fear of loss. Traffic. GPS malfunctioning. Fear of failure/mistakes. Other agitated people.
• Stress is the body’s response to a survival threat (real or imagined). It is a biochemical reaction within the body.
• Stressors are things (people, events, places) that an individual’s nervous system perceives or interprets as a threat.
- Stressors differ from person to person. For example, the same event or stimulus that causes a stress response in one person, might create a positive or exciting response in another.
- Stress and anxiety can potentially give us useful signals for action, help us gain insights, help us grow by facing fears.
When our brain interprets a signal that comes through our senses as threatening, the body prepares itself for danger.
Self-protection, defensiveness and survival is programmed into our genes.
The stress response prepared early humans for actual physical dangers, and increased the probability of their survival.
RECOGNIZE “THE THREAT STATE” AND CHOOSE “THE CHALLENGE STATE!”
Brains work differently when we feel “threatened” by a problem … or “challenged” to find a solution!
The “Stress Response” and INVOLUNTARY RESPONSES are triggered by structures in the limbic system, and the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. We might “flinch” … or even rage, if the “trigger” hits an extra-sensitive point.
“TRIGGERS” — events, circumstances, communications, interactions, words, etc.; that cause an immediate reaction (physical, emotional, behavioral) — sometimes, disproportionally dramatic! Can be positive or negative, mild or intense.
What sorts of “stimuli” might cause one to “lose their cool?” They may or may not be appropriate, logical or rational.
For example: Feeling disrespected, ignored, insulted, misunderstood, rejected, abandoned. Being told “what to do.” Irrational behavior in others. A driver cuts you off. Unfairness. Feeling mocked or teased. “Fighting words.” Parallel parking in city traffic.
“Keeping Your Cool” — remaining calm, mindful, making rational choices, responding to what’s really happening.
REACT — “Fast thinking”— Unaware of behavior & impact — automatic — impulsive
RESPOND — “Slow thinking” — Choose behavior & impact — purposeful — thoughtful
When agitated: STOP — PAUSE — BREATHE — EVALUATE
We can possibly eliminate, or reduce, the cause or source of stress (environment, circumstances, behavior, etc.)
We can possibly change our interpretation of, and response to, the stress-triggering event or source.
What is the story we tell ourselves?
Ask yourself good questions! Is it a genuine crisis, a challenge, or nothing much? Is it merely annoying? Do I just need to be more patient? Do I need more accurate information? Can I be compassionate? Forgiving? Take things in my stride? Just let it go?
Do I need to cease making ‘mountains out of molehills’? Do I need a reminder, like: “This too shall pass?” Perhaps a long walk!
— When “out-of-our-conscious-control” stress, anxiety or anger happens, avoid making it worse!
— Remember: we are human, and we do have a limbic system! Stress/anxiety can be managed, not always controlled.
— “Recover your cool” by self-acceptance (self-compassion). Avoid “beating up on yourself!”
— Breathe deeply and mindfully, with the intention of soothing and calming yourself.
The Practical Power of Gratitude — presented by Jerry Posner
Notes and Ideas to Consider
What can I be grateful for today?
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”
Intentional gratitude practices – “Grati-Tools” — Possible benefits:
— to experience more positive feelings, moods, and emotions associated with gratitude.
— to encourage sincere expressions of appreciation, thankfulness, acknowledgement.
— to gain new perspectives, biases/beliefs and habits that could catalyze improvements in many ways.
— to literally increase happiness, resilience, resourcefulness and well-being; short and long term.
Grati-Tool #1: Appreciating Those Who’ve Made a Difference In Your Life
• Begin a list of people (or animal companions), past or present, who have positively contributed to your life. Those who deserve thanks; who’ve loved you, were kind to you, helped and supported you: family, friends, colleagues, teachers, service providers … even strangers. Add one name per day.
Grati-Tool #2: One Minute of WHAT’S GOOD!!! (“Stop and smell the roses!”)
- Take a walk (slow or fast pace), and notice things that you could conceivably be grateful for. Such as: life itself, pavement, electricity, trees, air, cars, sky, gravity, comfortable shoes, things that work!
- Or, take a minute, wherever you are (sitting, dining, shopping) and simply notice “what’s good!”
- Or, pay attention to your breathing for one minute, while thinking: “I’m grateful I can breathe.”
Grati-Tool #3: Liberally & Sincerely EXPRESS Appreciation To Those Who Surely Deserve It
Say “thank you!” “Thanks for helping!” “I appreciate what you did.” “Great job!” “Nice going!” Tell the people you love, that you do. Send thank-you notes. Pay it forward!
Grati-Tool #4 Write a Gratitude Journal (Gratitude Diary, Gratitude List, Daily Gratitudes)
Write a daily list of five specific things — people, relationships, circumstances, feelings, abilities, talents, blessings, music, art, something that made you laugh, something that made you smile, something that warmed your heart, a great meal, etc., that you feel grateful for — reasons to feel happy, things you appreciate, people and things you’d miss if they were absent from your life.
Grati-Tool #5 Happy Birthday –
Grateful For Another Year!
Make a gratitude list on your birthday, with one item for each year of your life.
Grati-Tool #6: Take a Gratitude Break
Close your eyes … relax … and imagine a person, thing, circumstance, situation, accomplishment, talent, ability, etc. that you’re truly and deeply grateful for — something specific that makes you feel happy. Perhaps a convenience generally taken for granted, that you can be thankful for. Mentally offer a “thank you” or “I appreciate this.”
“All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” — Mister Fred Rogers