3 EASY STRATEGIES FOR CONTROLLING YOUR IMPULSES
You have been struggling for a couple rounds and you feel like you can’t quite catch a break. Set up feels off. You make a few adjustments with your team, but things aren’t coming together as quickly as you would like (immediately is an option, right?) Finally, things feel like they are starting to turn a corner. You are gathering some good data, and then…a crash ends your day. Maybe it was an error on your part or maybe someone else caused the incident. What happens next? That depends on your ability to control your own impulses.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF IMPULSE CONTROL?
Impulse control is the ability to delay your need for immediate gratification. It is a key component of emotional intelligence. Impulse control is one of the significant indicators of your future career success and also factors heavily into your ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, both professional and romantic.
My own minor lack of impulse control in the last few days is what lead to this blog. That coupled with watching a lot of racing over the weekend, that is. I know if I am struggling, someone else is too. As a long-time student of psychology, I love to study people and their reactions to situations. This weekend of racing was full of examples of impulse control. Most of you did a great job maintaining your composure, especially given the circumstances.
My own personal situation was pretty minor, as I mentioned above. It generally takes a lot to get me worked up. As my bestie would tell you, it is best not to do so. The calm and level headed version of me disappears, and the part of me that I likely inherited from some Viking ancestors emerges.
This reaction is something called an “amygdala hijack”. You might be familiar with this but called by another name like “red mist”, “blind rage” or “fight, flight or freeze”. These are all describing essentially the same thing. Your rational thinking brain shuts down in response to a perceived threat. Often you might not even remember parts of the conversation later. This is normal. A tiny part of your brain called the amygdala can become too activated and it overrides the more rational parts.
My situation wasn’t a full-blown hijack thankfully. I have gotten pretty good at controlling my impulses over the last several years and as a result I can feel myself losing control. In this instance, my dog was sick, and I needed to take him in to the veterinarian. A stressful situation under the best circumstances. Add in we have just moved to a new state, a new apartment, covid, and the receptionist tells me I can’t come inside with my sick dog. I was being emotionally triggered about as hard as I could be. For those of you that may not know, I rescued my dog about 7 years ago out in California when I was volunteering for a local rescue. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.
In that moment I had to control my fear over not trusting them because I had never been there. I had to control my anger and lack of control over covid not allowing me inside with my sick dog. I had to control my worry for my dog and the severity of his situation that could get worse if I delayed and yelled at her versus being nice and asking for the first available appointment. He was throwing up and there was an even worse situation happening from the opposite end. It wasn’t something that could wait a day or even a few hours while I had a meltdown.
Thankfully, I controlled myself. Hess got an appointment 30 minutes later. I waited in the car, sweating, for 1.5 hours while they ran tests and confirmed his diagnosis. He got some subcutaneous fluids, a shot, some meds to take home and I brought the little nugget home to rest.
Whether it is at the racetrack, a contract negotiation or a phone conversation with the veterinarian and your furry baby is in question, the same rules apply. You need to evaluate whether the instant gratification of your reaction is worth more to you than controlling your reaction. I can’t answer that for you. I can give you a couple strategies if you decide you want to work on improving those muscles.
THREE EASY STRATEGIES
1. Breathe First, Then Respond – I promise you; nothing is so important that you can’t take a few deep breaths before you respond. Whether that is face to face, via text, or online. Before you react to a situation that has you heated, take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Hold each for a count of 4 (or more). You’ll relax your central nervous system along the way and maybe decide your initial response wasn’t the best route after all.
2. You Don’t Always Have to Have an Opinion – I know this may be shocking in this day and age, but you can ignore things posted online. You can delete or unfollow people that don’t add value to your life. You can curate your social media experience. Your energy is precious, please don’t spend it arguing or defending yourself with people online. Control the impulse to be invited to the argument.
3. Practice Mindfulness – Keep a journal. If you aren’t aware yet of the things that are triggering you it can be helpful to begin daily journaling. Looking back to see patterns in your life is hugely helpful in controlling your emotions and impulses. You may recognize that you had several nights of poor sleep prior to a race weekend which led to you being tired, which led to you having poor impulse control. These patterns may not have been as easy to recognize if you hadn’t been keeping a journal.
If you need additional help, I am always happy to have a conversation about this or other similar topics. Click the “schedule call” button on the website to book your free call today. Let’s have a conversation.
The next group coaching cohort starts August 3rd!