How self-awareness can give you control over any high-stress situation
Your mind never stops.
Assuming you are an average individual, all of your waking moments have a soundtrack – a movie that plays as your reality.
Everyone’s movie is unique and a reflection of their experience, not the reality. By pausing or altering that movie we cannot always change the facts, but we can change how we feel about them.
We all see different versions of the same world, even when we are standing together in one room. Do you know anyone who always seems to be “in control” of their emotions and situations? Someone who “has all the luck” or is usually in a good mood?
It is not that these people never have bad things happen to them, but they experience those challenges differently. The movie that they see of the world is different to that of a negative person.
The beauty of it all is that this can be learned by practicing self-awareness. Taking control of your interpretation of the world first changes your perception of reality, but then begins to alter the reality itself and the trajectory of your life along with it.
3 Tips for Using Self-Awareness to Rule your World
It is impossible to live a bold, full life without being vulnerable and afraid at some point. We all have to take risks and put ourselves out there in order to move forward in our careers, relationships and causes.
Those moments when we are most fearful usually have a lot riding on them. How can we be sure to shine when it counts? How can we blossom instead of shrink? As you have probably already guessed, the answer will not come from outside, but from within. And it all begins with self-awareness. It’s time to meet your mind.
1. Release the what-if’s
Do you ever reflect on past times in your life – college years, career chapters, etc. – and remember how stressed you were? But now, when you try to remember what specifically you were stressing about day in and day out, you probably cannot pinpoint it.
The same is true about your stress today. Chances are that in a year from now, you will not even remember what was causing it. The vast majority of our anxiety comes from worrying about what happened yesterday (past), what hasn’t happened yet (predictions, which are often wrong) or trivial matters that you will soon forget.
Let’s pretend that you are preparing for an important presentation. Most of your energy is probably going to worry: reflecting on your past failed presentation or the possibility of a negative outcome.
The first step to changing this ceaseless, destructive narrative is to begin paying attention to it. Shine a spotlight on it. Just by doing so, you will alter it.
Eliminating this harmful view frees you up to productively dedicate your energy to preparing and delivering your speech from a place of optimism and confidence.
Work toward being more and more awareness of your mind’s movie on a daily basis. This practice will help you recognize and reel it in during high-pressure moments when you need focus, not anxiety.
2. Feel fully
You have the unique ability to observe both your mind and your body from an objective space. Finding that space takes work, but it is from there that our best decisions originate.
If you feel afraid or sad, shine a light on that too. Acknowledge those emotions and observe where they are coming from. You do not need to justify or defend them. Simply recognize how you are feeling.
Imagine that you are a cyclist. You wake up for a long bike ride and you push yourself like you always do but you begin to experience a pain in your leg. The sooner you recognize it, the better you can adapt to it, the less damage you cause and the better you perform in the long run. If you are set in your ways, strive for your usual performance and fail to recognize an injury, then you could be in for much larger repercussions. The same goes for your mind.
Before high-stress situations try sitting with yourself and taking account of all that you are feeling and thinking without judgement. Are you sweating? Are your thoughts scattered and racing? Simply sitting in the awareness of your state of being helps lighten the load.
3. See the truth
Once you begin working with tips #1 and #2 – raising awareness of your sources of worry, your thoughts and your body – you can begin to let them go and experience a more truthful reality. Truthful means less charged with emotions, bias and projections.
Choose a moment that is coming up in your life that creates anxiety within you. Recognize the fears and feelings that arise. Write them down. Then write down the facts of that moment. For example: “In two weeks I will pitch my startups to three investors. If I win the competition I will win €200,000 in funding. If not, I will enter another competition next month.”
Putting it into words prevents the movie of your mind from spinning all kinds of new subplots. The script is simple, as are the outcomes. Pinpoint the fear, in this case: giving a bad presentation, disappointing your colleagues and losing the funding opportunity. Fair concerns. You are aware of them. You have written them down. You do not need to reflect on them any more in your mind’s eye because it will not change them. Now, you can simply focus on your presentation.
Since you have already learned to self-awareness tips to connect and sit with the reactions that arise in your mind and body, you will not be as overwhelmed or thrown off by them during your high-stress moments. They will not cloud the simple truth of the situation – and the truth is never as daunting as illusions of the mind. The reality in this moment is something you can handle.
What do you do to overcome stress? Share with us by commenting below!
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Omozua is a Certified Emotional Mastery & Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach who empowers & prepares clients’ hearts & heads to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing their own potential.