Thanks to our latest contributor, Gill Parkin for this guest blog.
I know there’s an awful lot of people out there who are feeling stressed, frazzled and overwhelmed right now. It’s been the starting point for many of the one-to-one sessions that I’ve done recently.
If that’s you, firstly I want to say that I hear you. I get it and you’re not alone.
In this post I’d like to share an approach that I’ve used with a lot of clients and one that will help you get a fresh perspective on what’s happening in your nervous system whilst also showing you what you can do to bring yourself back to a more relaxed, resourceful and secure emotional state.
Three emotional zones
Being able to recognise your energy levels can give you a great indicator of your emotional state and how your nervous system is responding and reacting to triggers in your environment. There are three key states.
Take a look at the descriptions below and see what resonates for you right now as you read this.
Green zone – this is when we’re feeling safe, social, switched on and able to perform at our optimum. There may be a sense of pressure or stress here, but it feels manageable and drives us to be the best version of ourselves.
Amber zone – this is a state of high alert and we feel anxious, stressed, panicked and under pressure. We can’t think straight and we’re probably not acting rationally and deliberately. We feel on edge, we’re hyper vigilant and feel under threat.
Red zone – this is when energy levels are low. There’s low mood and we feel drained, exhausted and stuck. In this state we can feel helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed by whatever is going on around us.
Taking a couple of minutes to check your energy level can give you some great feedback on your general emotional state and wellbeing. I’d suggest drawing up a version of this diagram, or email me for a copy, and track your energy levels over a couple of days. Lots of my clients say that it’s helpful is to track their emotional state over the day, week, month so that they can get a sense of what drags them out of green into one of the other emotional states.
Recognising what brings you back to green – preparing your emergency box
Over the course of a day, hour or minute your energy levels and emotional states change can fluctuate. Even though you might have an overall sense that you’re stuck in amber or red; you might also have spotted a few glimpses of ‘green’ in there too?
I know when we’re in either Amber or Red, it can be difficult to take a step back and be able to say “Right, what can I do to get myself out of here?” What I often invite my clients to do is to prepare an ‘emergency box’ which can be a physical box or notebook containing lists of things that you know help move you back to green.
Maybe you’ll never need to use it, but the ‘emergency box’ like a first aid kit, can be there in those moments when it all gets too much. It’s a ready-made, bespoke treasure chest of pictures, photos, activities, playlists and reminders of just some of the thing that you know help you to deal with what life has flung your way!
Preparing your emergency box
Preparing your ‘emergency box’ is probably something that’s best done, when you’re feeling OK. In other words, when you’re in the green. The idea being that you fill your box with the things that YOU KNOW help; when you feel able to think straight and aren’t feeling under any pressure.
The idea is to create an actual box of things or even a list, that you can open up and use as inspiration when you need it. In the moment when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, you can use the emergency box to remind you of the things that make you feel better. It’s a gentle reminder that there are things you can do for yourself and with others, that will bring you back to green.
Many of my clients, say what a lovely exercise this is, just collating the box.
One client asked friends to write about what they loved about them and to email it back.
Another included a hot water bottle in a fluffy cover, which served as reminder of how much they enjoyed an afternoon nap when they were stressed.
My own box includes a reminder to listen to the Mama Mia soundtrack. It never fails to raise my energy levels – especially if I’ve got the chance to do a few minutes of ‘dancing like no one’s watching’ as an added bonus!
I’d love to know what you include in your box!