Our brains are designed to self-preserve. When commuting down a busy highway and a semi-truck pulls into our lane, we don’t have time to consider, “OK, I’m going to either slam on my brakes or swerve here…which would be most appropriate?” Our brains automatically make the decision and put our bodies into action. Thank goodness!

In a life-threatening situation, we want our limbic system to kick in, to “save me”!

However, the hang-up of this perfectly designed process shows up in situations or relationships that are not necessarily life-threatening––when adrenaline pours into the body similar to the semi-truck experience, creating stress without resolution over long periods of time.

Stress reactions leave damage to oneself (and others), which is why it’s important to recognize the “semi-trucks” in everyday life.

Stress at Work & Home

Do you have an upcoming trip planned? A deadline to meet? A full inbox of emails to reply? Bills to pay? A strained relationship? If these create stress, our “me” has a tendency to get in the way, limiting our availability, engagement, and satisfaction in the present moment.

This system designed to protect leaves our brain limited––like a reptile brain, some call it–unable to fully access peace, wisdom, and love that guides and enhances life.

Stress in Memory

Even while the body sits in a vehicle on a busy highway under NO stress, the mind can bring stress to the present moment through worry of the future or rumination of the past. Remember that irritating thing your co-worker said to you yesterday? Even though you’re here today, emotion becomes living memory, invoking a reaction to “save me” even if the event is history.

Grit or Quit

Most of us carry on, innocently believing more grit is required, proving or pushing ourselves to work longer or harder, or packing more into the day to alleviate stress. Unfortunately, blindly acting from a stress response jams us up more by trying harder to get unjammed.

We become even more limited and get in our own way. Innocently.


Coaching is one effective way to get the “me” out of “your” way.

Sounds strange, I know. Who or what are these two entities? We refer to them as True Self and Conditioned Self.

It’s valuable to clarify these two entities and how they show up because each one impacts leadership, marriage, friendship, and happiness uniquely. One Self reacts, and one Self responds.

By distinguishing between the two and separating adaptive behaviors from new behaviors, it’s not only possible to keep driving down the busy highway of live, but it’s possible to fully enjoy and be present during the drive as well.

Three Tips to Respond Instead of React

  1. Pause. Wait at least 90 seconds before interacting. Give the limited brain time to regulate.
  2. Breathe. If you don’t have 90 seconds, take a few deep breaths. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breath out for 7 seconds. Repeat.
  3. Cultivate. Use times of calm to lessen everyday triggers by practicing compassion for oneself and then extending it outwardly to those under your roof, down your street, within your workplace, and out beyond your city, state, and country.

Rachel is a certified coach on an extraordinary team. Learn more here.


INL Websitewww.inspiredleadershipwithin.com

Facebook Communitywww.facebook.com/leadershipbeginswithin

Twitter:  @RachelThalmann

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelthalmann

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