When you’re in the midst of a tumultuous or stressful situation, like a breakup or loss of a loved one, your inner voice often tends to run rampant with every possible thought: things left unsaid, anger, frustrations, sadness, and more.
These three simple tools rely on your natural processes for dealing with this kind of situation, and are easy to remember and do, even when you’re feeling run down or completely burnt out.
The best kinds of coaching tools to use in stressful situations are easy to remember devices that rely mainly on your natural methods of processing information: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste – your five senses basically.
The reason for this is twofold; first, when you’re in shock, that fuzzy, surreal feeling sets in and you lose the capacity to remember more than a couple of steps ahead at a time, making it difficult to focus on complex tasks. The second reason is that our physical senses are some of our most default information input and processing methods.
In NeuroLinguistic Programming, how your senses help you manage information is known as representational systems. In a nutshell it means that whenever you experience something, you store the memory of it somewhere on or in your body as a picture, sound, colour, taste, or smell.
Try it now: I’m going to mention a word, and when I do, I want you to note the very first thing you see, feel, hear, or experience, whether it’s a picture, sound, smell, taste, memory, temperature, colour, or anything else. Ready? The word is triumph. What happened for you? Did you see, hear, smell, feel, or taste something?
Various answers I’ve received over the years have included, “a warm feeling surging up from my heart,” “a picture of a man’s arms raised above his head,” and “it makes me want to smile.” If you asked 30 different people, you’d get 30 different responses.
Interestingly, if you asked the same people to describe the same word again in a few months’ time, you’d sometimes hear that their description and what they experience has changed. The point being that this kind of technique comes very naturally to us, which makes it infinitely more easy to run in difficult and taxing situations.
The second aspect to understand about the efficacy of these processes is that inner voice is part of our conscious voice, in the sense that you can use your conscious voice to drown it out, or at least be distracted so you don’t hear it.
It’s one of the reasons we like to do stuff and keep busy when something bad has happened: if our conscious focus is engaged on something, then our inner voice just disappears. It only tends to drift back and drive us bonkers when we aren’t engaged. So simply by taking conscious control of what you’re doing at a linguistic level, you should be able to drown it out quite easily.
Description is a process which has you either describe everything around you, and/or detail step-by-step what you are doing.
This is a tool that works very well when you are at your absolute worst and the thoughts are just running rampant. It sounds like a stupidly simple process, but when you’re feeling this bad, you’ll be surprised at how difficult this is to do.
Look at the objects around you and start describing them in detail, e.g. that is a green cup, it has tea in it, or describe what you are busy doing: I am picking the tea cup up and drinking, I’m putting the tea cup down on the bedside table, I see a book on the bedside table. You can run the process in your head or out loud; the point is merely to keep your linguistic centre busy so that all the thinking doesn’t overwhelm you.
The more you’re battling, the more likely it is that you will need to say these statements out loud in order to keep focused. As you progress you will be able to use more detail, until you find that you’re coping better and you don’t need the distraction anymore.
Spending time talking to someone works for the same reasons listed above: it occupies your linguistic centre, not allowing space for negative thoughts to creep in.
It’s important you choose who you spend time with wisely, as this tactic will only work if you’re engaged. Someone who talks at you non-stop will give the same amount of emptiness in your head, because eventually you stop listening and go into zombie-mode.
A listener is a better bet, but you run the risk of starting to verbalise the thoughts.
The point of exercises like these is to give you the space to recover so that you can deal with the impact of what has happened; hearing it out loud is just as damaging as letting the thoughts run wild. Since this is top of mind for you, chances are good that you’ll find yourself talking about the issue quickly if you’re left to steer the conversation.
Your best choice is someone who will engage in an equal-exchange dialogue with you, and knows which topics to steer clear of.
Singing out loud works for the same reasons again, it occupies your active linguistic focus and eliminates space. Plus, the songs you choose can actually significantly lift your mood.
Perfect for when you’re alone, you can stick your earbuds in, or blare your music player and sing at the top of your lungs. Singing wildly, loudly, and with deep expressive emotion will also help relieve some of the emotional pressure you are feeling inside of you – without the need to cry or feel bad either.