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Reacting vs. Responding

Understanding the value of the pause is central to our path towards expanding our comfort zone. The pause shifts our behavior from reaction to response, engaging the prefrontal cortex in the brain and unleashing change.




With so many triggering events happening in our world right now, most of us are likely having a pretty difficult time emotionally. I wanted to take this moment to explore how we can express those emotions using mindfulness. Many of you might be wondering what the difference is between Reacting and Responding!


Reacting happens when there is an event (or stimulus) → our internal alarm bells sound (or our Fight/Flight Reaction) → and we have external, physical or emotional activation.


Here, we usually have a short-sighted, sometimes aggressive or out-of-control impulse. Maybe we yell, we curse, we freeze, run away or even want to physically fight someone. (This is the reason it's called the Fight/Flight Reaction!)


Responding happens when there is an event (or stimulus) → our internal alarm bells sound (or our Fight/Flight Reaction) → and we are able to utilize our mindfulness skills to pause and breathe before → speaking or acting.

Here, we are able to use mindfulness to get beyond the emotion and into the information. Responding often produces a calm, value-centered, and connected solution.


It’s important to acknowledge that this is a skill that requires repeated practice. And that’s okay! It’s impossible to always Respond to stressful events or triggers. Our bodies have natural Reactions when we feel threatened or hurt. It is the goal of mindfulness to move towards interacting with ourselves, others and the world from a more peaceful place.


MINDFULNESS SKILL TO PRACTICE:


1. Pause

The moment you notice you are triggered, take a moment to pause and breathe. For example, the minute someone says something that upsets you and you notice your energy change, take a breath.


2. Label Your Emotions

Name what you’re feeling. Is it anger, frustration, sadness, grief? Identifying how we feel can help us process our emotions.


3. Ask Yourself: Why?

Asking yourself these questions: "Why was I triggered? What actually triggered me?" can help bring awareness to what’s under the surface. For example, it might not be what the person said that upset you but rather that it reminded you of a different memory or perhaps you are simply more sensitive today than yesterday.


4. Choose A Mindful Response

Here is where the difference is made! Consider the information about the situation over the emotion. What’s important to share about your experience? How can you communicate in a way that is connective and reparative versus harmful and unproductive? How can the way you communicate serve the best for all involved?


5. Empower Yourself

Empower yourself to move closer towards your values and goals by responding from this calmer place. Notice how pausing impacts your body and your nervous system. Notice how responding versus reacting impacts your relationships and how you feel about yourself!


By Community Forward SF

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