Crap. The wifi is too slow. Wifi troubles in today’s day and age are like a flat tire. Without it, I couldn’t get to work. The problem was I had an important work call in 20 minutes and I wasn’t within an hour of decent wifi.
Frantically looking up coffee shops I could go to (they were closed), I didn’t know what I was going to do for my call. We’ve probably all had to deal with similarly stressful situations like this.
More important than the call, though, I felt the stress evade into me. My jaw tightened. My shoulders scrunched up. When my fiancé Justin came in to say hi (unaware of the situation) he received nothing but a glare. The intense glare of a fiancé who’s mad at him for no good reason.
At that moment, I had a choice.
The wifi was out of my control. But my energy state was in my control.
I realized I had already accomplished step one for how to shift from a stressful (catabolic) energy state into a peaceful and productive (anabolic) state: awareness.
We’ve talked about this before, but you can’t make any changes, without being aware that changes need to be made. Awareness is the precursor to all conscious change.
The next step, step two, was to pause. Just pause. Take a moment before making any rash decisions, and see the situation from an objective lens once again. If you’ve ever had a sensation where you let “your emotions get the best of you,” that’s because in the moment of stress and emotion we lose objectively, and with it, the ability to think clearly.
That pause provides the moment to reset. During that pause, we can all have different strategies. I chose to take 10 deep breaths.
You could take a different approach during your pause:
Go for a walk.
Take a cold shower.
Have a conversation with someone.
Listen to your favorite song and dance to it.
After that, the third step is to make a choice. I could let the catabolic energy drag me around all day and cause me to snap out in my conversations and let the stress mount, or I could make the choice to move into a relaxed, anabolic energy. This is easier said than done, but it’s as simple as that. I made the mental choice that I was going to improve my energy in the way I was showing up.
The choice, however, won’t be as effective without action. Step four is to take action. I’d recognized my energy, paused, made the decision to shift it, now I had to move through my day with my anabolic energy.
The actions in this fourth step look a lot like your pause. Throughout the day I continued to bring awareness to my breath which modulated my energy. I made a point during my next interaction with Justin to ask him with a smile how his day was. All my actions the rest of the day were filtered through the lens of “how can I bring my best energy?”
Sure, my call didn’t go as smoothly as I would’ve liked, but that was out of my control, and I didn’t let it ruin my entire day.
I know I said there were four steps, but there are actually five. That fifth step is reflection. In my regular nightly journal, I thought about how I handled that situation. Did the deep breaths really help? Is there a better way I could’ve handled it?
Surely, I should have found step one sooner instead of snapping at Justin (sorry J). Without this reflection period (and it can take many forms), I have no way of knowing how to improve next time my energy needs to shift.
Journaling can help us consolidate and reflect on our thoughts. So can a conversation with someone, or even some space to talk through how you handled it out loud. Anything that can provide the space for you to explain (verbally or written) how you handled it, and how you can handle it even better moving forward.
In my reflection, I found that deep breaths worked very well for me. But something I can improve on is finding step 1, awareness, sooner. After all, I was stressed all morning until I found awareness. So, this lesson is a cue to me to reaffirm my meditation practice, which is a great method to cultivate awareness everywhere in our life.
Next time you catch your energy sabotaging your life, remember these four (well, five) steps. Start with awareness. Then, just pause, make a choice, take action, and finally, when the storm has passed, reflect.