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From Reaction to Response
Work/Life Balance

From Reaction to Response 

We live in a time where things move quickly in all our worlds, and this quickened pace can often lead to us feeling emotionally dysregulated by lots of intense experiences on an ongoing basis. This could be something as simple as feeling triggered or overwhelmed from social media scrolls to bigger events like a big argument with a loved one or heartbreaking natural disasters. 

If you’re finding yourself in an emotionally dysregulated state (i.e. unable to manage challenging emotions where you’re feeling off-balance), first check in with yourself to see if you’re in a state of reaction or response. Not sure what the difference is between the two? 

“A reaction is usually a snap judgment without thought. It’s the unconscious mind that takes control, and it doesn’t consider the long-term impact of what it does. A response, on the other hand, involves careful thought and reasoning. In contrast to a reaction, a response is a balanced, intelligent reply. A balanced response will keep the possibility of positive discussion and will keep your feelings and your core values intact,” says Dr. Joan Smith. 

Needless to say, we want to aim for response and not reaction, but many get stuck in this pattern of reactivity. This is so understandable as we are constantly being bombarded with information and situations. The world moves faster than it ever has. Reaction can become the norm, and it takes dedication and practice to slooooow down and choose response instead. Response is the place where we find our truth, calmness, compassion, and very often, our best solutions. 

Viktor Frankl’s famous quote is so true and such a great one to remember: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If you’re typically a very reactive person, don’t worry. This is changeable! You can move into a space of response more easily than you may think. You don’t have to be stuck in this pattern of upset and reactivity, and breaking the pattern doesn’t have to be complicated. As a matter of fact, the hardest thing is being aware that you’re in a reactive and dysregulated state. Once you are aware, you can quickly do any of these things to break the pattern: 1. Take deep breaths in and out. This shift from quick shallow breaths to long deep ones will calm your nervous system. 2. Do some form of movement: walk, jog, dance, yoga, gym, etc. 3. Do something unexpected and unusual. For example, if you find yourself in an argument with your partner, you can just stand up and spin around in a circle several times to interrupt your normal pattern of angrily firing back at them. They might think you’re strange, but you’ll be a much more regulated and peaceful strange person. 
Do try this at home—as many times as it takes for it to become your new way of being a kind and calm response-able person.

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