“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.” Viggo Mortensen
Focus on one single aspect of your reaction to the stressful situation – be that your behaviours, the sensations in your body, or the thoughts running through your head. Take notice. Accept what is happening. How would you like it to be? What one small thing could you do differently?
What’s happening? By focusing your attention on one aspect only, instead of remaining wide-eyed and vigilant to all that is going on for you, you are in effect distracting yourself. It is your emotional-thinking brain that is trying hard to be aware of all potential threats in your environment; it’s exhausting and keeps you trapped in perpetual hyper-vigilance.
Taking an interest in yourself is the start of objective thinking and the basis of reflective practice. If you want something to be different, you need to break the cycle you are in. If you don’t do that, don’t be surprised when you find yourself going around the same old loop again and again.
With practice, you can expand your focus of attention to other aspects of your stress experience. The greater the attention paid to observing and reflecting on your experience, the greater the distraction from whatever the stressor is [NB. Clearly, if the stressor is something that represents a clear and present danger to you or someone else’s well-being, then sitting back to draw a sketch of it in a notebook is not advisable! Trust in your emotional response to keep you safe]. The Rub section contains a handy 7-letter mnemonic for the aspects you can observe in yourself and others.
How to make the most of this technique? Take the time to read through the 7 aspects listed below and use them every day to observe and evaluate the way you react to challenging situations.
Better still, rather than simply assessing how you actually react, take it one step further and decide how you would like to react. Some might struggle with believing that they can act in a more positive manner: the important thing here is to dare to dream. The human brain does not distinguish between reality and fantasy. Let your imagination out and begin with the end in mind. Systematically run through the list below and come up with at least one way in which you could change your response. Remember that we make progress through a series of several small steps, so use your ‘actual’ response observations as your baseline measure and plan your positive steps from there.
The 7 aspects or ‘modalities’ by which we can observe and assess our response to challenging situations are known by the mnemonic ‘BASIC ID’. Created by a South African clinical psychologist called Arnold Lazarus (1932 – 2013), who was a co-founder of cognitive-behavioural therapy, together they serve to educate individuals rather than attempt to ‘heal’ them. They are outlined here:
As in the quote at the head of this newsletter, go slow with the BASIC ID – choose one of the 7 modalities – and take the time to observe your reaction to a specific challenge. Notice. Understand. Accept yourself. Then think of one small action that you can commit to that will start to change your response for the better.
Coming up in Day 3: Let it all out!