In this blog, we are going to look at the idea of becoming emotionally and physically overwhelmed during times of stress.
I’m going to invite you (for a moment) to recall the most recent fight you had with your partner. As you bring this memory to mind, can you notice the subtle shifts that are starting to become activated within your body? By that I mean, pounding heart, sense of heat raising in the body, tightening of your gut, breath becoming shallower, palms starting to sweat, dry mouth/throat, the need to swallow, constriction in the chest, just to name a few.
Do you ever wonder what is happening to you in those moments?
In these moments of intense interaction, the stress hormones such as cortisone and adrenaline are being pumped into our body resulting in our system becoming physiologically flooded and we get into a state known as “fight/flight/freeze”.
When we are in this state, we can not think clearly, or participate in the conversation in any fruitful way because in that moment you’d rather be anywhere else than right here with this person. Hence, it’s impossible to send or receive any attempts at connection. You may even feel like an innocent victim, cornered into a conversation from which you just want to flee.
What is the best thing to do when you become flooded?
What is required in that moment is to STOP! Take a break from the conversation, because your physiological system has gone into a ‘survival’ mode and nothing good would be achieved if you persist with the interaction.
One thing I need to mention here is the importance of telling your partner, that you will be back after you have calmed down. Reason for this is by informing our partner of our intention, we are preventing and/or managing any potential attachment wounds that might get triggered in our partner as we take a momentary leave from the interaction.
Taking this pause allows both of you the physical, mental and emotional space that your system need in order for it to calm down. On average, the amount of time it takes for a normal body to recover from such stress is 30mins. Remember, the key here is not to dwell on the issue during this break time, but rather engage in an activity that is going to take you mind off the issue e.g. pick up a book to read, go for a walk, listen to your favorite music, cook, paint, exercise, meditate, play with the kids (if you have children) and anything else you can think of that would help to take your mind off and away from the conflict. Once you have calm down, try to get back to discussing the problem or agree with your partner to discuss it another time.
Finally, remember to use the skills mentioned in the last 2 blogs. Here they are again in a summarized version.
- Using “I” statements
- State your needs without attacking or blaming the other person
- Describe your perception of the experience, not the “absolute truth”
- Focus on specific behavior, not global statements
Till the next blog, happy PRACTICING!