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March 16, 2023

How to Stop Reacting and Start Responding

Do you find yourself often regretting your reactions to conflict, inconveniences, or problems in your life (big or small)?

• “I should be more mature by now!”
• “Why do I let these things get to me?”
• “Wow, I really overreacted…”

In this week’s episode, Heather & Jamie discuss enabling, reacting vs. responding, and the different parts of our brain.

Check out the episode:

Reacting Vs. Responding

Do you ever feel like you’re two different people? You can be reactive in a situation and then 2 minutes later look back and think, who was that person?

It’s probably because the emotional, or primitive, part of your brain kicked in, causing you to respond from a reflexive place before the rational part of the brain had time to catch up.

Some of it has to do with the way you were made.

 

The first part of your brain to be developed are the parts that help you interpret and react to your surroundings: “The first area of development is the emotional foundation of the brain, called the limbic system, which starts developing at birth“(todaysparent.com).

This system is essential to your survival as it deals with bodily needs, fight or flight responses, and emotional response and regulation.

The last part of your brain to develop is the front (the prefrontal cortex) which has to do with decision-making and your ability to override the primitive part of your brain.

Therefore, you were created as an emotional being. Emotions in themselves are not bad. It’s when our emotions start ruling our choices that it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate.

The Owl Vs. the Tiger

Heather’s counselor gave her a helpful analogy when it comes to understanding how the emotional and rational parts of the brain show up in daily life. She labeled the emotional brain the tiger and the thinking brain the owl.

If you don’t know how to regulate the primitive part of the brain, every time you’re feeling bad or having a strong emotion, the tiger is awake and prowling, looking for a way to avoid the emotion. This, in turn, scares off the owl.

Put another way; you’ll react instead of taking the time to respond. You have to get the tiger to lie down and be quiet and empower the owl to take charge. But how do you do that?

3 Ways to help you respond rather than react.

In the midst of painful, frustrating, or unpleasant emotions, it can be difficult to get the lion to lie down. So, let’s look at three simple ways you can calm your body’s natural response and empower the owl to take over:

1. Breathe

When the body is in a sort of fight or flight mode, it’s important to take time to calm down and check-in. Doing a breathing exercise can be really effective in signaling to your body that you’re not in danger and forcing you into a state of hyperawareness of your body and mind.

Try this simple exercise:

We often stuff big emotions rather than letting ourselves feel and observe them. Allow yourself to be present with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Giving yourself space to feel your emotions can help you release them more quickly: “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop” (care-clinics.com).

You might not realize the dysfunction in your thought patterns and reactions because you’ve never taken the time to actually observe them. The Bible says renew your mind. But if you don’t first know what you’re thinking and feeling, you can’t contradict them with truth.

3. Renew Your Mind

How you think determines how you behave. What are you letting dominate your mind?

When you read Scripture, you begin to understand how God thinks, and your thoughts can be transformed by the truth of His Word. Old, broken thoughts can be replaced with new, God thoughts.

Romans 12:2 says, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

It is by continually renewing your mind that you can truly disrupt dysfunctional thoughts and reactions and instead respond in love. The Spirit of God instructs you, but you must create the space and time to listen.

Listen to our episode on spiritual and emotional health:

The spiritual side to mental and emotional health

 

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