by Claudia Gray, MA, LPC

You were so humiliated you were speechless? …so angry you lost it with your boss? …so embarrassed you left without saying good-bye? OMG, me too and afterwards I feel really bad and have been known to beat up on myself. Consciously I know I’m not that person who loses her voice, comes uncorked or runs away. So what the heck happens to you and me?

Emotions can be the alien bedfellows of our behaviors. When we find ourselves in situations where we show up ‘less than’ what we expect, chances are something we heard or observed scared us. Our brains automatically react to our fears. Without intervention, the behaviors that follow this brain state fall into one of three categories: freeze, fight or flee. That being said; How do we intervene for a different outcome?

The first step can be tricky. Knowing when your brain is activated or ‘triggered’ takes practice. Usually the quickest signs come from our bodies. Shortness of breath, literally seeing red or feeling very small are just a few of the many signals we can experience when our brains react to fear. Learning your body’s responses to conscious or subconscious fears is one of the keys to changing your behavioral response.

The next step is to calm down. Five deep breaths can lead to a remarkable transformation in your brain state. By the end of the fifth breath you will notice you can begin to think. And thinking before we act is usually always in our own best interest. Thinking allows us to make choices. Be it the questions we ask, the language we use, or decisions we make, a thoughtful response often leads to outcomes that feel more like success than regret.

Healthy responses to those uncomfortable moments when we feel vulnerable not only help us feel better about ourselves; they are also antidotes for depression and anxiety. They break the cycle of rumination and allow us to get closure to the event. Being present and attuned to your body, taking the initiative to calm down and making thoughtful responses can mean you may never again have to “rue the day” when…

Claudia Gray, MA, LPC is a therapist who works with adults both as individuals and couples. One of her areas of expertise is working with the GLBTQ community. In addition to her private practice she is also an Intake Counselor at Maria Droste Counseling Center.