I spent a lot of the day today with a friend who is going through a really tough time at the moment. Heartbreakingly, there’s nothing I can do about it except to be there with her and just sit with her, in her pain. I really want to fix it and the control freak in me wants to step in and sort everything out. But I can’t.
Not long after leaving her place this afternoon, I found myself in the carpark at the local supermarket. I gathered my stuff; my wallet, my glasses my phone ready to go in to the shops and just as I opened the door of the car, just for a second, I thought to myself, What am I doing here?
There in that supermarket carpark, I discovered a bit more about myself and the imperfect human that I am.
I realised that I was feeling very uncomfortable. I was sad for my friend, sad for me, angry about the situation, scared for what’s going to happen to my friend next and feeling helpless and frustrated that I can’t do a thing to change it.
All of these strong emotions were swirling and crashing around in me and guess what my pattern was? Go and get something to eat. Give that uncomfortable feeling in my belly something to soothe it and stop me feeling these feelings
As luck would have it, on the long drive to my friends house that morning I’d been listening to some research about emotions like discomfort, anxiety, stress and fear; all of the emotions I was now feeling. The research says that If we can allow them to just be there they will wash over us and most of them will be gone in about 90 seconds. 90 seconds!
So I sat in my car for 90 seconds and breathed.
And guess what? I was ok. I didn’t need food or sugar. What I actually needed was to acknowledge how miserable I was feeling, and to cry a bit.
We all have strong emotions and if you’re really honest about it, if you stay awake and aware, you’ll notice your strategies and patterns for avoiding them.
So as a leader, are you aware of what your habits are when it comes to feeling and managing strong emotions? And do you have a go-to strategy to help you when you’re in those difficult situations?
Why not try riding the wave of the strong emotion? If you can do that, generally its’ gone in 90 seconds But we don’t know that because we avoid it as soon as it arises. As soon as we start to feel uncomfortable we reach for our phone or open the fridge or call a friend. And here’s the real kicker, we have become so good at this that we often do it unconsciously, we don’t even realise the pattern we are in.
This work of being our best self can be tough and we get to do it again and again and again.