A Self-Awareness Kickstarter to Keep Handy for Stressful Situations

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Self-awareness serves us well almost any time in life, but it's an especially valuable asset for effectively navigating challenges and tough circumstances. Here's a convenient check-in tool for tapping into your self-awareness during stressful moments. It's a simple framework with 5 steps. Each step is framed as the beginning of a sentence, which you finish in your own words:

  1. I feel...(label the emotion) 
  2. This feeling comes up when...(describe the context and the emotion)
  3. A need that is not being met for me is...(pinpoint a want/need that is not being met)
  4. I feel this way because I believe...(identify the connection between your beliefs and your emotions)
  5. Something I can do to benefit the situation is...(focus on what you can control)

After working through all 5 parts in earnest, people often experience a sense of relief and clarity.  By increasing our awareness of these 5 elements within ourselves, we gain access to more personal power: the ability to choose something different.  

Consider a metaphor: Chess is a notoriously complicated game with very simple rules.  The human mind is infinitely more so.  This is a simple framework, built on principles that work, but the tools will always be limited by the skill of the practitioner.  Like chess, it takes practice to master.  

So.  How are you feeling?

Here's a closer look at each:

1.“I feel…”
  • Make sure to choose a word that actually describes an emotion. Hint: If you can replace the word feel with think and your sentence still makes sense, you are not naming an emotion. For example, “I feel that no one is supporting me right now.”  
  • Other examples of non-emotions that we hear: betrayed, disrespected, uncared for.   These are beliefs about what others have done to you, not emotions.  Push yourself to name the real emotion underneath.  It’s uncomfortable, sure…but most real growth is.  
  • Some labels sound like legitimate answers but mask deeper feelings.  If you find yourself using the labels angry, frustrated, or tired, challenge yourself to name 2-3 other emotions that might also be present.
2.“This feeling comes up when…”
  • Describe the situation in objective terms.
  • To check if your sentence is objective, imagine saying it out loud to anyone involved with the situation.  Would they agree, or would they be defensive about it?  If you describe a situation simply and factually, usually everyone present would agree with your description.  
3.“A need that is not being met for me is…”
  • You can get creative here, but some common needs that we all share include: belonging, freedom, power and control, security, fun, self-actualization, and self-worth. 
4.“I feel this way because I believe …”
  • Beliefs should reflect your worldview, not lay blame.
  • Keep your belief within yourself; this is where you can truly create change, nowhere else. Hint: if telling your belief to anyone involved with it would make them defensive, it’s a sign that it isn’t just about you
  • The beliefs we uncover when we earnestly do this exercise may sound ridiculous and irrational.  They might be embarrassing.  That’s okay.  This is why getting more awareness about them is so important.  You don’t want toxic, outdated beliefs to pull your puppet strings anymore.
5.“Something I can do to benefit the situation is…”
  • Keep your focus on the things you can control.  
  • A good sentence for the fifth step is short and simple; an action that you are capable of and ready to take.