When I propose you to improve your adaptability, I mean to apply tools that, consciously, will contribute to make your full human potential flourish. Adaptability is a natural human ability. However, our adaptation pattern to any event or stimulus is to change the minimum necessary to ensure our survival. That’s what our emotional brain does: it responds as quickly as possible to avoid further damage.
For example: you get bad news from a supplier or team member and just like that your mindset becomes tense and you’re on edge the rest of the day. That’s the way emotions are, they arise as a result of some trigger and are an old survival response that doesn’t inherently differentiate between life threatening danger or a deadline. The role of this deeply seated biological feature is to help us respond to potentially life threatening situations as quickly and efficiently as possible. It should be duly noted that prioritizing quality of life is inefficient and useless if you don’t survive the threat.
Improve your adaptability as a way to have a meaningful life
While the role of emotions is to ensure your survival, a duty the emotional brain fulfils quite well, Yuval Noah Harari mentions in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century that “most human decisions are based on emotional reactions and heuristic shortcuts rather than on rational analysis and […] heuristics (deduction) that were perhaps adequate for dealing with life in the Stone Age, are woefully inadequate in the Silicon Age.”
The severity of what our brain perceives as a “threat” has changed drastically over time. This change now means that “threats” rarely represent any imminent danger to your life but do represent a potential threat to your income, your relationships, your self image etc. Now you strive to do much more than merely survive, you want to be successful and you want a fulfilling and meaningful life. Instead of braun or weapons, the threats you experience on a daily basis require perspective and clever strategy.
Stop repressing and start channeling
We are at a critical moment in our history, now that we understand that confrontations can be avoided, come to agreements, negotiate interests, and prevent violent conflict. This expansion of human perception popularized the importance of learning to deal with emotions, improving our cognitive brain, and using its ability to analyze and voluntary decide to reprogram automatic reactions.
For many years, the most common way to deal with emotions at work was to repress them, ignoring their existence, and, over time, turning them into chronic or acute illnesses, physical or mental. Depending on the person’s temperament, it could lead to a personal breakdown or an explosion of pent up emotions expressed through violence. Oh, did I say the most common way to manage emotions USED TO BE repressing them? Well, for many people, it still is.
According to the theory of universality, emotions are connatural, biologically driven responses to certain situations to elicit a quick reaction to a threat or opportunity. They are one of the diverse deeply seated skill sets that help humans survive.
And although there is a lot of talk about the relevance of emotional intelligence in the work environment, do you and your team members know the practical tools to reprogram the way you react with emotions? To take a step towards reframing our approach to managing emotions starts when we recognize that the solution to ending the emotional roller coaster is to stop repressing and start channeling emotions.
How to improve your adaptability making anger fuel for action?
Anger, like fear, joy, sadness, and disgust are basic emotions, fundamental to survival. However, after tens of thousands of years of evolutionary development in our central nervous system, along with our abilities and our technology, humans aspire to thrive and live better lives, not just survive.
With the contributions of neuroscience, we are increasingly aware that human behavior is directly linked to the chemistry of our brain and body. And, therefore, anger, like any emotion, is nothing more than a pattern of our body’s chemistry, driven by the release of hormones/neurotransmitters, among other substances, that lead us to a state of alertness and reactivity (sympathetic system), or relaxation and passivity (parasympathetic system).
Recognizing how our emotions work and understanding that the capacity of our cognitive brain, despite what is commonly thought, is yet to be more fully explored and trained. We can learn self-directed tools and harness the chemical pattern triggered by emotions to our advantage to train our ability to reprogram our behavior.
Emotional awareness and adaptability for managing emotions
Channeling anger to be productive is nothing more than using the substances produced in the body to work, move, do physical activities or sports, express your entrepreneurial ideas, write, or create anything. With emotional management tools we can transform the old fight or flight response into something more fruitful.
If anger is triggered to move your body – for fight or flight – you need to redirect this energy strategically, otherwise the two most common tendencies are for it to explode, ruining relationships, or to implode, producing illness and weakness in the body and mind.
When it is impossible to transform this emotional energy into constructive physical or intellectual energy, an ideal alternative solution is to physically withdraw yourself from the potential conflict. If possible, be honest about your need to take time to reason or clear your head before responding, or even make an excuse to leave the room where confrontation seems imminent.
How to use your breath to deal with stress and improve your adaptability?
When we get scared or angry, our body prepares to fight or flee, producing respiratory and cardiac acceleration and sending more circulation to the extremities; to change this response, we need to induce the opposite by voluntarily slowing down our breathe and perception of the situation and, consequently, self-directing our response.
A study begun in 1991 by UCLA professor of neurology Jack Feldman, and continued by Mark Krasnow and Kevin Yackle, showed that breath affects the mind and its emotional states. They found a neural circuit that makes us anxious when we breathe quickly and stable when we breathe slowly.
Other studies have also shown that it is possible to slow the heart rate and activate the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system (i.e., relaxation and well-being) when we breath deeper, slower, and more rhythmically.
When we voluntarily breath slower, deeper and more rhythmically, activating the state of serenity and well-being, we block the organic processes that prepare us for fight or flight. We avoid the type of destructive attitudes associated with fighting or fleeing danger. With a reduction in the volume of these fight or flight attitudes and thoughts, our gain mental clarity, and we can use our prefrontal cortex or cognitive brain to make more lucid and productive decisions.
However, learning to breath more deeply and slowly is not a definitive solution to dealing with anger. To reduce the frequency you enter the anger cycle, you need to reprogram your behavior consistently. And for that, we suggest the following guide to deal with emotions at work.
A step-by-step guide to dealing with emotion at work
Below is one of the tools we teach in the DeRose Platform addressing how to deal with anger, especially in the scenario of increasing uncertainty, high pressure, rapid change, and great complexity:
- Identify a moment that triggers you to feel angry.
- What are other feelings associated with this emotion?
- Use your breath to stabilize your emotions by taking deep and slow breaths.
- Do you feel that any area of your life has been impacted or threatened?
- Is there any apparent fear behind your feelings? Fear of what?
- What kind of feelings would help you thrive in this complex and uncertain situation?
- What skills or abilities would help you express what you want to feel?
- How will you use these skills or abilities to solve or circumvent this challenge?
Now that you’ve learned the step-by-step guide to dealing with unproductive emotions, apply them whenever you get the chance. How about sharing this step-by-step guide with your team and helping your team members manage anger and thrive instead of just surviving the day-to-day adversities?