Wellness your way is based on a decision to change direction to one or several parts of your life. Knowing how to turn from an auto response to controlled calm will allow you to create a positive flow for all the wellness dimensions in your life. Like a pilot in command, you will know how to land safely on your life runways, and reap the benefit of well-deserved balance.
Does this sound too flaky? If we tell you that most real airline pilots actually learn this technique – it might intrigue you, right?
Wellness Your Way: Finding Wellness
Part I of this series on Wellness covered how to identify the dimensions of wellness, and Part II dealt with how to start your wellness journey. In this Part III, we look at ‘Fight or Flight response”.
It can not be overemphasized in our stressful, short-sighted consumer oriented world that wellness depends on a whole series of factors that interact seamlessly. We need to take a step back and reflect on what is good for us and set reachable goals.
If one or more dimensions in your life are not in sync it is a matter of finding balance. Perhaps you feel stuck because of early experiences, a difficult job, obligations and ‘must-dos’. These create stress, which can be tackled once you recognize the symptoms.
Negative long-term chronic stress impacts our health. Body and mind suffer greatly. The primary response to a distressing situation is called Flight or Flight response. Like an animal we react and pounce on the perceived threat – Fight! Or – run around the next corner – Flight.
The primary response to a distressing situation is called Flight or Flight response. Like an animal we react and pounce on the perceived threat – Fight! Or – run around the next corner – Flight.
Wellness Your Way: Active Decision Making
Wellness your way is basically about using a new way of thinking about an ‘old’ problem. A problem becomes a challenge. You learn to rethink each situation, and instead of acting automatically, you are aware where you want to go – and why. This, in turn, allows you to make active decisions. When a Pilot makes decisions, the matrix below is how they weigh each situation:
Aviation techniques lend themselves well to active decision-making and we use it here for our wellness goals.
Once we become aware which wellness dimensions we need to address, we can start to recognize pieces that make us more or less stressed. Identifying these will, in turn, allow us to turn ‘flight or flight’ situations into successes. We can use stress positively and find ‘flow’ – a perfect feeling of balance.
Wellness Your Way: Fight or Flight Response
The “fight-or-flight” response was the positive adaptation of our prehistoric ancestors who were subject to the constant threat of hungry predators and a hostile environment. The automatic reaction allowed our ancestors to flee or fight to avoid danger. The human stress response lives on today – but the imminent ‘dangers’ are different.
In our changed world this auto response has turned more negative. The basic primary response to a stressful situation elicits the same response — rapid heart beat, a surge of adrenaline, stress hormones pumping throughout our body. All of the same things that would prepare us to fight, or run away, from a predator are engaged, and we lose the ability to think clearly and rationally during that time.
Today we don’t pick up a spear, or hide under a table – our daily activities rarely allow us to think clearly. We react to a traffic jam, too much noise, or a shouting boss or child. Every small incident elicits the same bodily response. With time – chronic stress sets in, and we are on the road to self-harm.
The previously beneficial “fight-or-flight” stress response can unleash a physiological cascade of events that can be more damaging than the stressor itself. Ultimately, chronic activation of the stress response increases the risk of getting diseases that make you sick.
Fight or Flight response is an automatic reaction to a situation. We can, however, ‘tame’ this auto response by recognizing situations that trigger stress and learn to read our body/mind signals.
Wellness Your Way: Knowing Your Stressors
You can turn this into a positive: Like a pilot who learns the ‘flight or flight response,’ you react as if you are about to perform an emergency landing on the Hudson River. You read your bodily signals, understand the situation, make a judgment call — and find a new flow in your previous automatic response mechanism.
By looking at your change decision you can see what it working in your life. What is not working is probably the result of stress. If you ask yourself: Why is this stressing me out? Learning to read
Ask yourself: Why is this stressing me out? Learning to read your body/mind signals to your given situation can allow you to control it better.
By drawing on your life experience, understanding who gets affected by your reactions, and learning how to react differently you can turn from an auto response to calm control.
Hudson River Landing: A Lesson In Crew Resource Management
The captain of Hudson River Jet, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, drew upon his training and experience, recalling the basics of safety and making calm quick decisions, he steered his jet to a miraculous — though wet — landing on the river. He used what in Crew Resource Management is called the 4 Cs: Competent, Compassionate, Committed and Communication.
The automatic flight or fight response would have caused a massive fatal crash landing in New York City. However, by translating the stressful situation and using a well-known technique — it turned into a total success. Let’s translate this into your Wellness goals:
- Competent: Know your life/job and utilize experience/training to assess a situation. Captain Sullenberger was competent on the job, and situationally aware.
- Communication: Clear communication with your close-ones, colleagues etc allows you to be clear with yourself too. Say what you are doing, and why — be prepared to get feedback, support and adjust your decision accordingly. Captain Sullenberger calmly communicated clearly throughout, sought and got feedback by using open-ended questions.
- Compassion: Who is your team/family/friends that you can draw support from, and who can you not rely on? Compassion cannot allow you to cloud your mind, however, and in this example, the compassion to passengers and crew did not stop the captain from making the right safety decisions at the right time.
- Committed: Stick to your goal, and why you’re on your wellness journey. Over the Hudson River, the captain was committed to safety and drew on all his training and experience to reach the overall goal.
The overall technique can be used in an everyday situation to positively turn panic and aggression into a calm and clear flow that allows for a successful outcome of a given situation.
Wellness Your Way: Finding Flow
Fight or Flight response is an automatic reaction to a distressing situation. If you turn it into a positive challenge (using the techniques described above) you can reach what is called flow.
To get to ‘flow’ you need to see the other side of stress: positive stress or eustress.
Wellness Your Way: Eustress – The Good Stress
Thrilled, eager, excited, motivated are all expressions of so-called eustress – which is a positive reaction to a stressor. Competing in sports is highly motivating and exciting for some. Scared, upset, anxious, and unwilling is perhaps how you perceive it when enrolled in a competition?
Eustress is the way we positively perceive the stressor, whereas distress is negative. The word ‘Eu’ comes from Greek and means ‘well’ or ‘good’, and the Eustress theory was coined by Hans Selye.
Eustress occurs when the gap between what one has and what one wants is slightly pushed, but not overwhelmed. The goal is not too far out of reach but is still slightly more than one can handle. This fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight. The function of challenge is to motivate a person toward improvement and a goal. – Wikipedia
Eustress is the method we can use to turn a fight or flight response from a negative one that consumes us, to a flow where we feel we have control, decision-making capabilities and an action plan that allows us to reach our goals. Eustress has a significantly positive correlation with life satisfaction and hope. The ultimate expression for eustress is ‘flow’.
Wellness Your Way: Flow
Flow is a state of mind. It is described as the moments when one is completely absorbed into an enjoyable activity with no awareness of surroundings.
Flow is an extremely productive state in which an individual experiences their prime performance. – Wikipedia
You can make changes in your life. You may even have to, as you otherwise may end up where you did not want to go.:)
Wellness Your Way
Finding wellness is about becoming aware that you need to change some aspects of your life to get balance. You do not need to big all the changes in one go.
By making yourself captain of your own life journey you take command. The wellness dimension choice becomes clear, and a smart plan gets you there step by step. Your wellness plans will allow you to evaluate, adjust and even incorporate new dimensions. Discipline brings reward.
You can competently draw from your experiences, and compassionately read others needs as well as you own. Committed to your wellness goals, you are able to draw from all your resources to get there – and finally by communicating clearly and calmly you elicit support. Your reward is your own body and minds’ response to the small steps you initiated. Wellness is well within reach – Your way!
If you need resources, tools, tips, and wellness or career change motivation try our coaching services
Related and Recommended:
- Human Factors and Pilot Decision Making – Langley Flying School
- Career: How To Improve Wellness and Job Satisfaction – thegoodista.com
- Crew Resource Management – SKYbrary
- Less Stress More Living – The Huffington Post
- Stress Management – The Mayo Clinic
- Personal Change Management – SkillsYouNeed
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