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  • Writer's pictureNicky Lloyd Greame

In a State!

When we talk about being in a state, we usually refer to our Emotional State.  If someone is ‘in a state’ it suggests their emotions are out of control, they could be angry or upset, frantic or stressed.  


Emotions can feel like they run away with us like they just happen and we don’t have control – and chances are this is true – albeit momentarily.  Our knee-jerk, reflex reaction to certain situations or things will undoubtedly trigger an emotional state that your brain thinks is appropriate.   This is either based on a direct past experience or learned from something we’ve seen or heard. 


There are times when this emotional response is the last thing we want or need.  e.g. when children annoy you, you may not want to get angry, when you hear or see something upsetting you may not want to cry etc. 


So can we actually control this emotional side of us when we need to?  Can we make sure we are functioning in the most effective ‘state’ for any given situation?  The good news is yes we can – although it may take some practice if you are not used to doing it.


Emotional state is generally made up of 3 things:

  1. Physiology Think about it, if I was to ask you what does a sad person look like, or an angry person or even a stressed person – most of the time you’d be able to tell me.  From posture and facial expressions to breathing and even the way they speak.  Each emotional state has a corresponding physiology – equally each physiology has a corresponding emotional reaction (an increase or decrease in specific hormones).  The beauty of this is that you can effectively ‘fake it til you make it’ if you need to make a quick state change to get you through a situation.  For example, if you find you feel sad or low but need to get to the end of the school day and you need to up your energy – change your posture and breathing to what you do when feeling happier or more energised.  Just standing in an upright, confident posture with your hands on your hips for 2 minutes changes the hormonal balance in your body and helps you feel better and more confident (& less lethargic or low).  You can also do the same with smiles, laughter, breathing, exercise and stretching.  All of these activities have a hugely positive impact on your hormones and as such – your emotional state. 

  2. Focus I’m sure you’ve all heard sayings like “you get what you focus on” “Energy flows where focus goes” etc.  Equally, I’m sure you’ve all experienced moments when after something goes wrong – all of a sudden everything seems to go wrong.  Equally, when something great happens it more often than not leads to other good things happening.  The reality is that whatever you are focussing on, you are basically telling your mind to look for more of that.  So if you are focussing on problems, mistakes & issues all the time – you will continue to see more of them and stay in the emotional state that they initially put you in.  The solution is to adjust your focus – instead of thinking about the problem,  think about possible solutions (literally asking yourself what can I do to change this), or even think about something else – like how can I change state, what can I do to feel better?  Whenever you ask yourself a question your mind will always try and find an answer and during that process, it changes your state to a more resourceful one.

  3. Language Now this might seem like an odd one but hear me out!  When a problem happens – what is the first thing that comes to mind or even the first words you may say out loud?  Is it a swear word, is it a catastrophic statement (eg What a nightmare, what a disaster)? When describing how you feel to other people are they factually correct or do they have a dramatic edge to them?  (eg I’m starving rather than I’m hungry, I’m exhausted rather than I’m tired, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, rather than I feel a bit unwell and my body aches)Every time you think or speak catastrophic language your brain momentarily triggers your stress response as it believes there must be a threat.  If you say something that suggests anger (I’m furious, I’m seething) you will feel angry, if you say something sad (this is so depressing) then you will feel sad etc etc.  If you are not in the state you want or need to be in, just reflect on the language you are thinking, speaking and writing… you may find a slight adjustment is all that is needed.


Next time you are in an emotional state that is not helping you – check in with each of these three things.  What are you doing physically?  What are you focusing on and what language are you using to describe what’s currently happening?   Adjusting just one of these things can create a state change – so imagine what changing all 3 could do?

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