Counting to 10, taking a deep breath, closing your eyes...for sure these can be helpful self management behaviours, however it's not as simple as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. First and foremost, there are so many subtle things happening in your self-management that are invisible to the naked eye.
Self management is all about graduating from self-awareness and understanding your emotions, to using that emotional information to chose what you say and do. Its about spotting the emotional response early in the process and being able to deploy effective strategies to managing your emotions before you hit category 5. Working on your self awareness is intended to identify how category 1 through 5 of your emotional states feels like. When you haven't been specific about these subtle nuances, it will be way to easy to speed past a few categories of non-damage directly to category 4 where all hell breaks loose.
In short, significant self awareness is necessary for self management because you first need to be aware that you're experiencing an emotion before you are able to then manage it. Sizing yourself up quickly then because a powerful tool in your arsenal to maintain your composure, to demonstrate the right amount of emotion to the right person at the right time.
The following 5 strategies are my favourite because I've seen significant impact from their use. The first 3 are the strategies that gave me the biggest bang for my invested growth.
Strategy 1: Make your goals public.
Talk about holding yourself accountable to more than just yourself, as a strong motivator toward success! When you make your goals public, you have the support and encouragement, and yes eyes, of more than just yourself. This can be what triggers a greater chance of success and can be very powerful in creating the consistency needed for self-management changes. Make sure you select the right audience to make your goals public to. These people need to want to support you, want to encourage you, want to help dust you off and stand back up. Choose wisely; do not choose people who will let you off the hook or enable the behaviours that take you backwards.
Strategy 2: Daily problem solving hour.
My personal hour is exercise. I do my best problem solving when I'm running; gives me time to think, identify my self-talk, navigate different perspectives, ask tough questions, and find my way through the bologna. This time is especially critical for slowing down to think about the emotional roller coaster you experienced throughout the day and save space for thinking rationally about them. This rational thought allows you to make good decisions outside the heat of the moment. This also means that you cannot make every decision is the heat of the moment; nor do we always need to.
Strategy 3: Immaculate sleep hygiene.
You need to be able to put yourself in the best physical shape for self-management. Sleep is the way. If your sleep hygiene is messy, so will your self-management strategies and abilities. Higher quality sleep provides the foundation for focus, patience, alertness, and presence. All of these things are needed for optimum self-management under emotional triggers. Improving your sleep quality can be achieved through any and all of the following:
1. Get 30 minutes of sunshine as early as possible in the day (preferably before noon), setting your circadian rhythm or your internal clock. This helps you to fall asleep in the evening.
2. Give yourself an hour of screen-less time before you turn in for the night. This goes hand in hand with the morning sunlight in #1 as screen light mimics sunlight and can trick your internal clock.
3. Keep your bed for sleep only. Avoid doing other wakeful activities in your bed.
4. Limit caffeine and avoid it completely 12 hours before bed. 25% of caffeine ingested remains in your body 12 hours after consumption and this can be disruptive to you falling asleep.
Strategy 4: Grab the reins on your self-talk.
Self-talk triggers emotions and therefore what you think impacts how you feel physically and emotionally. Internal dialogue is more influential affecting our perception of things, including ourselves, and when these thoughts are left to run wild (and perhaps also lean toward negativity) they can rumble emotions and intensity emotional experiences in a negative downward spiral. Try these strategies to turn down and turn around your negative self-talk:
1. Remove the words 'never' and 'always' from your vocabulary and replace them from 'right now' or 'in this instance'. This will help to inflict further self blame or shame that you are always doing something or never doing something. This will help to keep things in perspective.
2. Change shaming statements into facts. 'I made a mistake' is a fact. 'I'm an idiot' is a shaming statement. Labels have power over your emotions where facts are objective and situational which you have the power to change.
3. Stop blaming and start accepting responsibility. Pushing all the fault to someone else or pulling all the fault to yourself is usually wrong 100% of the time. Take responsibility for your part only.
**Note: positive self-talk is great to do all day!
Strategy 5: Synchronize your inside and your outside.
Synchronicity is when your emotions (inside) are matched by your body language, facial expressions, voice tone (outside). Self-management requires that your inside and your outside are aligned. You cannot 'fake it til you make it'. When you cannot keep your outside in check, your emotions are getting the best of you. This is also why self-awareness and knowing what you emotions feel like physically, is so important. When I am enraged I yell and my face is beat red. When I am angry (which precedes rage), I stand up and lean in aggressively when I speak. When I am frustrated (which precedes anger) I furrow my eyebrows and out loud state what I am frustrated about. When I fail to catch myself at frustration and try to 'fake' being calm, cool, collected, I move from sitting to standing and I start to lean in. To synchronize my outside with my inside, I need to physically do what brings me calm, cool, collected, which is to take a deep breath and stretch my chest and upper back.