*WARNING* – This blog post contains an image that coffee lovers may find distressing. Please view with caution.
This was the aftermath of the scene of devastation I unintentionally created in the kitchen this morning.
(I know, I know. If you’re a coffee drinker then this may be hard to look at for too long. If it makes you feel better, just hold on to your favourite mug tight as you continue reading to help reduce stress levels).
It all started as I was reaching in the cupboard for a container and the coffee jar decided to jump out (honestly, it jumped. Grew legs and everything. It had nothing to do with the fact I’d perched it precariously on top of a bag of oats). It tumbled over my shoulder and smashed onto the floor, and it went e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
A year or so ago I would’ve felt like this inside….
….(okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but not too far off), and would have definitely have let that seep out into some of my reactions to the situation, such as;
- I would have shouted quite a lot of expletives continuously
- I would have shouted a few of those at myself
- If anyone had come in to say something I would have most definitely reacted in a snappy tone
- I would have chastised myself even more for the fact I was now wasting my time sweeping up coffee granules and shards of glass instead of doing some research for my business, which was what I had originally earmarked for those ten minutes.
Even writing it out sounds daft on reflection, the feeling that that level of anger would be present in me feels abit ridiculous.
It’s just a jar of instant coffee.
Also, I don’t even bloody drink coffee! I only had it in the cupboard in case any guests needed a caffeine ‘pick me up’ when they came over to visit!
So where does the anger come from in situations like this? Do you also sometimes feel the same about similar instances?
In the my coffee morning mishap my personal reason boiled down to the fact I was angry at myself for having created this problem which could have easily been avoided if I’d paid more attention to what I was doing, and here lies they key point in how my reaction this morning differed hugely from the me a few years ago. Today is a simple and small example of how personal growth can take place when you’re conscious and aware of your habits and actions;
- I knew what was coming and had a split second to prepare for the unavoidable smash as the jar flew off my shoulder and took a second of doing its own version of free-fall skydiving before hitting the floor (see, don’t be sad for it, it was living its best life right up until the last moment).
- I took a deep breathe and very slowly said a swear word (come on now, I’m not perfect, I was still annoyed at the whole situation!).
- I then looked at the mess and said to myself ‘it’s only a jar of coffee.’
- I took another deep breathe and shook my head.
- I told myself ‘what’s done is done, it is what it is, so don’t get wound up, lets just get on with it and get it cleared up’.
- When a comment from the other room that ‘the whole house now smelt like coffee’ was made I thought ‘well, at least that’s an upside to all of this!’
- I whistled and upbeat tune as I went to find the broom.
From the list above, what would you say were the key influencing decisions that made my reaction a different, more reasoned and positive one?
As I mentioned in one of my recent blog posts When Your Emotions Take The Driving Seat And Go For A Joyride our first reaction is fuelled and put in motion by the emotions that are in the limbic part of the brain, but by coming up with your own strategies of how to recognise when this is happening and how you can manage yourself in the situation through engaging your pre-frontal cortex it means that, although you may have no control over the situation, you do have a choice over your reaction to it.
My decision came from following my own strategies that I have chosen to use that work for me:
- I took a couple of deep breathes to avoid acting on my immediate emotional limbic system reaction that I knew was taking place in my brain.
- I reasoned what the situation was in the hard light of day in order to de-escalate what I was looking at, which was…..that…….it…….was……just…..coffee.
- I allowed myself to feel annoyed but put it into context and accepted it had happened. I couldn’t change the fact it had ‘jumped’ off the shelf and smashed, I could only ‘do something’ about the aftermath that was now in front of me, and an elongated ‘frustration fest’ at myself wasn’t going to bring anything productive to the room.
- I whistled! I’ve found that although I didn’t really want to whistle, by doing it the good feeling I automatically associate with brought that positive feeling into what was happening and restore some balance.
- I found the positive in the negative – the house smells like coffee, which seemed to be openly appreciated! Wahey! You’re welcome everybody, I’m here all week!
Why Am I Sharing This With You?
When we’re self-aware of our default behaviours and responses, we’re then also able to understand what’s happening and why we’re reacting in that particular way, and off the back of that can then implement mini-strategies to give ourselves the much needed ‘breather space’ in order to acknowledge we have a choice in our responses, and to then work out what those are, and the best one to use for that situation.
If you’re wanting to gain more control over how you react to situations then give it a try and have a go at implementing your own ‘breather space’ mechanisms into even the smallest of events that happen in your day-to-day life and see what differences start to occur.
But remember, you can’t create mini-strategies for managing your reactions if you aren’t able to spot where you are meant to use them, and to begin with just being able to notice and catch yourself in your emotions of what you’re feeling and telling yourself in a particular moment can be a big enough challenge, so simply working on your state of self-awareness is a great place to start!
What I’m describing above also runs parallel to the amazing breakdown that Professor Steve Peters describes of how our brain works in such situations, and how we have the power to control our emotional reactions (our inner chimp) once we understand why we react the way we do, in the fantastic book ‘The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness’. If there’s ever a book I’d recommend to go and buy it’s this one! (I may even do a post just about it specifically in the near future, it’s THAT good!).
Thanks for reading,
PS: For the coffee lovers, to make up for the first photo, this last GIF is just for you….