“Here it comes, that funny feeling again…” Those of you over 45 may remember these lyrics from Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love?”
When that funny feeling hit me this week, it wasn’t love! It was a REACTION to something that happened years ago…but it still sent “that feeling” to my core.
You know the feeling I’m talking about. You walk into a room and see someone who hurt you or someone you don’t want to see, or you run across something that throws you back to a time you’d rather not revisit! You get “that feeling” that runs from your heart to your toes and back…that shrill chill…yuck!
I opened a message on Facebook and there it was, a message from someone I don’t know but felt it necessary to make a comment that sent a zinger through my system. If you’re a leader, you have been there!
Like Nick Sabin says, if you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream. And I add in, someone will still complain that it isn’t creamy enough! Right? I know...look for the bright spots!
I was sitting on my couch. Safe. Warm. Comfortable. As far away from a threat as possible. But my body reacted as if I was being attacked…by reading a comment from someone I don’t know who has absolutely no bearing on my life!
The comment I read was tied to a rough situation I dealt with as a coach. It isn’t something I think about very often anymore, but WOW, did my body react as if I was in the middle of the battle!
Why did this happen years later… as I was comfortably sitting on my couch?
At one point, comments like these were coming from all sides (or so it seemed). Each time I opened my email or social media and read one, I had a very similar feeling.
Heck, all I had to do was think about it and there was that funny feeling again. I had reacted so many times, it was what my body expected. It became a habit!
This same thing happens to our players when they associate a situation in competition that gets them in “that feeling”, the one where they missed this before and felt embarrassed or got yelled at and felt like a loser.
According to Dr. Joe Dispenza in You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter. “Every time you have a thought, in addition to making neurotransmitters, your brain also makes another chemical—a small protein called a neuropeptide that sends a message to your body. Your body then reacts by having a feeling. The brain notices that the body is having a feeling, so the brain generates another thought matched exactly to that feeling that will produce more of the same chemical messages that allow you to think the way you were just feeling.”
We have more than 70,000 thoughts a day…and about 85 to 90% of them are old thoughts…recycled thoughts…ruminated thoughts. We love to mull over the good stuff (not!).
Think about what you think about. How many times do you relive that mistake, those hurtful words or situation or that small irritation that ticked you off yesterday?
Here is the problem. When we keep repeating the same thought, feeling or event over and over, our brain cells make strong connections. You’ve heard it before “nerve cells that fire together, wire together.” In effect, we are creating stronger ties between the thoughts, feelings, and events…which affects how our body functions.
You know the effects of stress. You feel it in your neck…a headache…that feeling in the pit of your stomach!
We create this…our bodies memorize and turn it into a nice little loop…thought…emotion…physiological reaction…more thoughts….
As Dr. Dispenza says, “eventually when this loop of thinking and feeling and then feeling and thinking has been operating long enough, our bodies memorize the emotions that our brains have signaled our bodies to feel. The cycle becomes so established and ingrained that it creates a familiar state of being—one based on old information that keeps recycling.”
My body memorized my reaction…and it was a familiar one…one I’d rather leave behind forever.
So, what to do about this little loop we create that sends us down that spiral of repeated thoughts, feelings, and reactions?
Even though it may not feel like it sometimes, we are not slaves to our thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts happen to us. And feelings aren’t facts! WE CAN CHANGE OUR REACTIONS…OR MANAGE and MOVE FORWARD!
Since I was immediately aware of my reaction, I had the power to move past it just as quickly. I have the power to RESPOND!
One way we can do this is to simply put our hand over our heart. Sounds so hokey, I know. I first read about this in Mel Robbin’s book The High Five Habit.
I’m not that touchy-feely kumbaya person that says, “oh, that sounds like a beautiful idea!”
But it works!
Put your hand over your heart…right in the middle of your chest. Spread those fingers out and know your hand is there…you know what I mean!
Then take a DEEP breath in! Mel suggests you say, right there with your hand on your chest, “I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m loved.”
Too much for you?
How about “I’m good.” Or even better, use that coach voice of yours and say “You’re good, Julie.” Now you are talking TO YOURSELF instead of listening to yourself talk.
A study at Michigan State University found that people who talk to themselves in the third person (think Lebron James when he “took his talents to South Beach”) displayed less activity in the areas of the brain associated with strong emotion than those who used first-person statements. This allows us to distance ourselves a bit and analyze our emotions with a sense of an outside perspective…like we are telling a friend she is good!
All in all, this short exercise reminds us that we are in charge of our emotional responses…and responses are almost always better than reactions!
Taking a second or two to calm our emotions and allow our rational brains to reengage can change how long we stay in “that feeling” and how long it has to create new connections that we don’t want.
Our new response…taking a deep breath or two, feeling “okay…good…safe…loved”, whatever, ties us to the present…far, far away from that initial incident that sent the chill through our bodies.
Now we are working to build new connections in our brains to help our bodies respond more appropriately.
The bottom line is this, if we keep repeating the same thoughts, we will continue to feel and act in the same way. Thus, if we relive that mistake over and over again, it will revisit us when we stumble across the same situation in the future.
Since we really don’t want to make the same mistake again…or relive that old event again, it is in our best interest to STOP as soon as we are aware of “that feeling” and regain our ground.
A solid gesture (hand over our heart), a deep breath (anchor to the present) and a quick reminder (you’re okay, Julie) can go a long way in resetting ourselves back to neutral…and neutral then allows us to throw it into drive and do what we need to do NOW…without the weight of what happened then!
Manage the moments and have a great week!
P.S. Let's work together to help your team RESPOND to the pressures of competition. Email me at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946.