The Women in Medicine Badass RadioshowEpisode #38: Transform Your Reactivity For Good
Hello my WIMBAs and welcome back to the show with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman. And today I’m going to talk to you about reactivity. What do I mean by that?
If you’re like most people, you likely find that you are reactive when dealing with stressful situations. Maybe you feel attacked when someone criticizes or blames you, which leads you to either attacking them back or becoming defensive. Perhaps you get heated quickly and when that happens you yell and say things you don’t necessarily mean and later regret. Or it could be that you internalize your reactivity and spiral out of control in your thoughts and anxieties.
Reactivity is also considered to be a vulnerability factor in the development of disease, so not only is this not great for your relationships, it’s also not great for your health.
So today we’re going to talk about how to be less reactive and how reactivity is something that affects you on multiple levels. And as we know, everything is interconnected, so it might be affecting you on a cognitive level, on an emotional level, and of course on a physiological level as well.
As we go through this, I’m also going to share with you some interesting quotes that I found from a variety of different folks on the internet who I thought were interesting because they really tie in well to some of these concepts.
So the first thing that I want to share with you is that being responsible for yourself is one of the things that can get you to the other side of reactivity.
I found this quote by Sadhguru that says, “Reactivity is enslavement. Responsibility is freedom.” So let’s talk about how to really turn reactivity more into responsibility.
Normally what I see is that when you are in a conversation with somebody and you get triggered because of something that they may have said or your perception of what they mean by whatever it is that they’re doing, that you become reactive. And what we’re talking about here when we talk about responsibility is to really recognize what is your part in the situation. It’s always easier for us to become defensive and to attack another person or to let go of all responsibility and blame other people for the entirety of the circumstance. But ultimately we know that each of us plays a role in whatever the scenario is.
So could be that the other person that you’re chatting with has a certain contribution but then you want to also find out what is your contribution. And the row that’s so important is because we don’t have control over what other people do. The only thing we have control over is what we do and how we respond to whatever it is that other people do. So this is where self-mastery comes in and that’s really the work of Emotional Intelligence.
The next thing you want to do is really focus on slowing down. And the reason for that is pretty obvious, it’s because when you are reactive you are not really thinking things through. You just impulsively do something because of what is popping up in your mind, because of how you currently feel, and a lot of that is driven by your automatic interpretations, many of which are likely faulty. And so finding ways to slow down is going to allow you to have more time to think things through and make better decisions, and we’ll talk in just a little bit about how to do that.
Before we move into that I want to also mention that the third thing you really going for is expanding your options. There’s a quote by Timothy Ferriss, author of Tools of Titans, that I wanted to share that really speaks to this idea of expanding your options as it pertains to reactivity. He says, “Most people spend most of their time on defense, in reactive mode, and playing with the cards they got instead of moving to a different table with different cards.” And I think this is such a beautiful way of thinking about how you have options when it comes to your response to things. So instead of just thinking about how things are and how you’ve always done things, it’s really about expanding your menu to think about, “How else can I do it? What other opportunities and options exist that maybe I haven’t contemplated before?” And learning a new skill is one of those things.
So now that we’ve covered these three things: really taking more responsibility, slowing down, and expanding your options, let’s talk about the “how.”
The first thing to consider is writing. And what I mean by that is really something that I found in a quote by Daniel Jay Siegel, author of Mindsight. He says, “Writing in a journal activates the narrator function of our minds. Studies have suggested that simply writing down our account of a challenging experience can lower physiological reactivity and increase our sense of well-being even if we never show what we’ve written to anyone else.”
So when you are in a situation or maybe there is maybe there’s a recurring situation that every time you are faced with that you become triggered and you automatically react. If you find yourself in that situation then really taking a step back and jotting down what is going on, what are the things that come up in your mind, how is your body reacting when you’re in the situation, and what can you do differently? So just writing it all down is an opportunity to really reflect and it allows you, as we said earlier, to really slow down to take a look at your responsibility and how you can expand those options.
The next thing I’m going to share with you is mindfulness.That’s where you notice what’s coming up for you, and the more aware you are of it, the more you’ll be able to challenge your thoughts and come up with more rational ideas. It may be hard to do in the moment when you’re worked up or after you’re triggered by an event, but at least in some situations it might be available to you.
Which really brings me to point number three, which is about being proactive rather than reactive. And what I mean by that is that if you practice meditating for instance, that allows you to tame your brain’s emotional response to perceived stressors. So rather than relying on, “Hey maybe I can be mindful in the moment of what’s happening to me,” as we said it’s sometimes hard to do when you’re all worked up, so getting into a practice of meditating on a regular basis can really change your brain structures such that you become less reactive. And I’ve had personal experience with this where after meditating for a number of months, I started to notice that I was less reactive, not so much because I tried so hard to hold myself back, which is what point number two was — being just more mindful in the moment, but because my brain just wasn’t as reactive.
Another way that you can do this is through priming your brain and you can do that in two ways. One is with commands like telling yourself to:
- Slow down
- Stay calm
- Breathe and relax
- Let it go
These are all commands that you can give your brain to help you stick with the program that you want to stay with, right? So if you know that you’re somebody who really gets hyped up, really gets easily triggered, is very reactive, then when you notice that coming up then giving yourself those commands is something that can keep you more calm and relaxed.
The other ways through affirmations with certain statements that say things like:
- I am aware of my thoughts
- I stay calm even when something feel stressful
Or you can expand your consciousness and send the command to your spiritual guides by saying “Show me what I need to know now.”
Those are all ways in which you can really be more proactive.
And if you’re interested in working on a deeper level in terms of the brain priming and you know that in the moment it’s going to be really hard for you to be proactive in this way, and so you need to really do the work ahead of time — kind of like what we talked about with regards to meditation, then I want to invite you to join The Priming Lab which is my membership site where we’re doing brain priming of this nature together as a group.
This is where you really practice on a regular basis to listen to the kinds of messages that you want to program into your subconscious so that it becomes more automatic and that you can then reduce that reactivity for good.
So if you want to find out more information go to www.ThePrimingLab.com or reach out to me on my website at drsharongrossman.com
I’d love to have you and in the meantime I hope that these suggestions have been helpful.
Remember emotions are information. So find out what is it inviting me to do when I have this emotion or this reaction. You can’t stay in bliss, so you’re likely to experience other kinds of emotions that will come up. It’s just part of The Human Experience. You might at times lose your sense but it’s about how to get back to center. Really the question is it’s not about whether you’ve lost your center, but about how quickly you can get back to it, and asking yourself, “What is it that I need to recalibrate?” When you can notice those Sensations in your body, those thoughts in your mind, those behaviors that you take when you are reactive, that’s an opportunity for you to make some real change.
So take your first steps today and your future self will thank you for it. Until next time, have a wonderful rest of your week.