Don't Brace Yourself

A woman recently spoke to me about her work situation. She is a manager in an organization that has to report to a group of people that have the tendency to be harsh and they often reject (in an inconsiderate way) the ideas her team puts forward.

She gets a lot of emails. When she sees that one of the emails is from this group of people she reports to, she braces herself for what she will read in that email.

She’s not the only person that “braces themselves” for a challenge.

Have you ever braced yourself for a necessary conversation that you didn’t want to have? Have you ever braced yourself for a future assessment or test, at work or at school? Or an upcoming change in the workplace or at home - such as a child graduating or leaving home?

Bracing yourself is not “bad” or “wrong”, but it has its drawbacks.

  1. “Bracing” is a negative attitude. It is based upon the presumption that what is coming is going to be bad. This attitude arises in an attempt to cope with your fears and anxieties about the “bad” things that will happen. A negative attitude drains your energy and decreases your resilience, making it difficult to actually be energetically prepared for whatever is coming…whatever you are “bracing” for. With less energy and less resilience, it will be more difficult to stay in charge of how you think, feel, and act when the event happens.
  2. This negative attitude biases you to see negative details/information and not see positive details/information in the event you are bracing for, making that event seem worse than what it really is.
  3. Bracing makes you rigid. Rigidity puts you at risk of “snapping” and “breaking”. Imagine if a tree knew when a wind storm was coming and could prepare itself for it. Do you think it would brace itself and become more rigid? Or do you think it would become more flexible and move with the flow? We humans have the tendency to think that rigidity is synonymous with strength and resilience, but ask the tree!

So, what is a more effective and positive attitude to have when facing a challenge?

Confidence. Confidence that you have what it takes to not just “get through it”, but to grow through it! Challenges are in our life to help us grow, learn, evolve. If you don’t feel you have what it takes, have confidence that this challenge will teach you what you need to know as you go.

Trust. Trust yourself. Trust the growth process. Trust life. Challenges are not easy, but they are easier when you realize that you’ve made it through so many different kinds of challenges already. Even if this one is a new type of challenge for you, the ones you’ve already faced were once new, too. You’ve got this!

Having a positive attitude is not about ignoring your fears and anxieties, or pretending that everything will end up in rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. Let the fears and anxieties exist; don’t try to pretend that they don’t or try to push them into the darkness. Simply redirect your focus on the positive attitude.

Try this technique called Attitude Breathing, from the HeartMath Institute:

Step 1. Recognize a feeling or attitude that you want to change and identify a replacement attitude.

Step 2. Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Suggestion: Inhale 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable).

Step 3. Breathe the feeling of the new attitude slowly and casually through your heart area.

Use this technique the next time you find yourself bracing for a challenge.

Here’s to conquering stress.

With heart,

The Stress Experts

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