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  • Writer's pictureCristina Lima Counselling

Take some time for yourself

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

How do you communicate when you are under stress?

After trying to make your point without success, do you start to raise your voice?

Do you walk away from the conversation because you don’t want to make a scene?

Perhaps you shut down, or feel like crying? Does it depend on whom you are talking to?

Feelings such as distress, frustration and anger are common emotions that we experience throughout our lives.

What we do with those emotions, and the extent to which we allow those emotions to help expand our understanding about ourselves is what matters the most.

What you learn about yourself, and what you do when you’re under stress can have positive or negative impacts in the effectiveness of your communications, and in the quality of your relationships.

A recent study* showed three interesting findings related to the ways that we communicate:

1) Sentences spoken by speakers who are stressed are received by listeners as sounding more stressed than sentences spoken by non-stressed speakers,

2) The stress level of the speaker affects judgements made by the receiver,

3) Our interpersonal sensitivity, that is, our ability to accurately assess others' states and traits, from nonverbal cues, gets compromised when we are stressed.

So, what should we do when we are feeling stressed? The answer may sound simple, yet it is quite effective: take a break.

You will need to talk to yourself, before talking to anybody else, and that’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Go get a glass of water, take a shower, go for a walk around the block, and sit with your feelings for a moment.

Ask yourself: what am I feeling? What thoughts are coming to my mind right now? Where in my body do I feel this feeling / the stress? Is it on my chest, perhaps in my head? Take some time to notice your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations.

Once you have gained some clarity about what is going on for you, then try to use the tool below to communicate with the person that you need to talk to:

. I feel_________ (name the feeling: ‘frustrated’, ‘disappointed’, ‘worried’ etc.)

. When/Because___________ (describe the situation that triggered your feeling: ‘I was waiting for you for 30 minutes and you didn’t show up’, for ex.)

. I would like/need____________ (make an attainable and specific request: ‘you to send me a text message or call me if for some reason you can’t make it in time in the future’).

Remember to notice your tone of voice. If you notice that you are starting to feel a strong emotion again, take another break.

Take the time you need to collect yourself, organize your thoughts, and to try to understand what the other person is feeling, so you can think of solutions to the problem in creative and helpful ways.

To learn more about the communication tool noted above, check out this article.

May you regulate your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations even better in the next weeks.

*Article “How Psychological Stress Affects Emotional Prosody”, by Silke Paulmann, Desire Furnes, Anne Ming Bøkenes and Philip J. Cozzolino, available here.

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