How to slow down when you want to react

This January I launched a new part of my coaching practice - the Intentional Change Community (ICC).

As any entrepreneur will tell you, launches are stressful and scary! And my process of starting ICC taught me a lot about my urge to react and fix things, even when it might be better to slow down and wait.

I want to paint a picture of this need to react by highlighting a few experiences from the launch.

Moments when I slowed down

  • Only a couple of a people signed up for ICC at first. I was really worried about getting enough members to make it feel like a community. By slowing down and continuing with the outreach and follow-up I had already planned on doing, I ended up with 12 members - a perfect size in my book. If I had reacted too quickly, I might have scared people away in my effort to get them to join!

  • After a month or so, I felt very clear on what I needed to improve to make ICC even better moving forward. I had the strong urge to start making changes right away. But I decided to let the full two-months of the initial launch of ICC play out and to get feedback from the members before making any changes. I can see already that that has been vital for allowing the members to settle into the program and that I will have a much clearer picture when I make adjustments.

Moments when I reacted

  • Participation was slow at the beginning. I was posting my prompts in the group and waiting with bated breath for people to start commenting. I started to spin out thinking that everyone must be too overwhelmed by all of the new information to be able to participate and felt I had to fix it. I ended up sending a somewhat unnecessary email to try to soothe my supposedly overwhelmed participants. But folks just needed a little more time to get into the swing of things. For all I know, my email added to the inundation of information and made the adjustment harder. And I also took away the opportunity to observe and learn from how it might have played out without my intervention.

  • Finally, one episode truly made me laugh out loud at the strength of that urge to react. I knew that I wanted to start gathering feedback from the members of ICC and decided to schedule phone calls, rather than sending out impersonal surveys. The personal connection would make the feedback process more authentic to me and my goals. But in a moment of insecurity, I suddenly felt that I needed feedback now. I put together a quick survey and sent it out. Immediately, I knew I had made a mistake. Hearing from participants in that format felt cold and distant and didn’t give any opportunity for connection, which is such an important part of the work I do. I had told myself I would slow down and wait. And then I reacted anyway! Slowing down is clearly easier said than done.

I know I’m not alone in that urge to react right away to something.

As you can tell, I don’t always get this right (and neither will you - aren’t you glad to be human together?). But I do have some tricks for getting myself to slow down in these stressful or scary moments that I’d like to share with you.

Tips for slowing down when you want to react

1) Notice urgency in the body

Urgency is a very physical sensation. You might experience it as a quickening of the breath, a clenching in the gut, a tightening of the shoulders, or any number of feelings in the body.

And when your body reacts, it’s your body that needs to slow down first.

When I notice those feelings of urgency, I do something to soothe my nervous system. That could be listening to calming music, making a cup of hot tea, going for a walk, or just sitting and breathing.

Whatever you choose to do, bringing your body into a state of lower stimulation will help your mind slow down, allowing you to pause before you take action.

2) Distract yourself

Whether you notice urgency in your body or you notice the thought spiral you get caught in when you think you have to fix something, a simple distraction can do wonders.

Instead of trying to get yourself to slow down for an indefinite amount of time, just get yourself to pause momentarily. Watching a sitcom on Netflix, calling a friend, or reading an article can create just enough space for your mind and body to snap out of the urgency.

Then you can decide what to do next with a greater sense of groundedness.

3) Invite curiosity

This tip is partially for those moments when you can tell you’ve already acted out of urgency.

I’ve written before that curiosity is the key to self-compassion and I stand by that. When you come off of the high of urgency and realize that you’ve already reacted, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and fall into a cycle of more urgency, trying to correct your correction.

You can increase self-compassion and continue trying to slow down by framing your insecurities as questions or statements of curiosity:

  • I wonder what will happen next.

  • I wonder how I will feel about this tomorrow.

  • I wonder what new choices I might be faced with.

You might even try writing these statements down to help rewire your thoughts.

This works at the pre-reaction phase, too. But often we move so quickly that we can’t get ourselves to slow down at first. It’s important to have a contingency plan for what comes next.

4) Set up your support system to counteract urgency

Remember the different parts of a complete support system?

Those are perfect resources to turn to when you want to slow down. Go to that happy place that brings you comfort. Call the person who is good at talking you down. Do the activity that brings you joy and chases all insecurities from your head.

And if your support system doesn’t help you slow down, it might be time to add some new supports to your list. Because it’s important that you have ways to get out of your own head.

What about you?

How do you feel urgency in the body? What ways have you found that help you slow down in moments of distress?

Tell us in the comments and share your wisdom! ;)

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