Stop, Look, Listen

On the way up north for a restorative weekend, we planned our half-way point as the Burnett Dairy Cooperative.  It is perhaps the biggest cheese shop I have ever seen; a wall of Gouda, Monterey Jack, Cheddar and tooth-picked samples every 5 feet to tempt the taste buds and pocketbook. Looking forward to a reprieve from the driving (and, of course the cheese),  I turned into the parking lot, eyeing an available spot next to the door.  With a loud “POP” it became very evident the power steering had just gone out. Wrestling the steering wheel, I did my best to coast into place that now seemed to be divinely placed. 75 miles from my destination, and 100 from home, I, along with my daughter and two (now stressed) dogs were stranded on Labor Day weekend.  At least there was cheese, ice cream and wine available. After a period of pondering, I determined a tow home was the only viable option, and gave the tow company my credit card number, reminding myself, “it is only money…”   
 
As my shoulders tightened, my mind raced with thoughts.  
 
“What would this cost to fix?” “Really? A hundred mile tow?” “Will this be the last straw for my little car?” “Do I have enough poop bags?”  “I have no time to look for a new car!” “How do you get two adults and two dogs in a tow truck cab?” “Seriously? I can’t go to the cabin? Now I REALLY need the cabin.” 
 
To think clearly,  I knew I needed to get out of reactive brain space and get into creative, problem-solving part my brain.  I took a deep breath and decided to take the expert’s advice, use my senses and pay attention to what was around me.  
 
Using our senses, changes our focus and shifts us to the part of our brain where we can actually think – the prefrontal cortex. When thoughts feel like they are out of control, take a deep breath and stop. “What do I see?  What do I hear?  What do I smell?”   
 
looked at the cheese shop sign and saw store hours.  I listened to the constant stream of excited vacationers exiting the shop with mile high ice cream cones.  I smelled my nervous dogs in the back seat.  And, then I noticed it.  My head cleared.  The situation had not changed, I had.
 
When your thoughts feel out of control~
 
Stop.  
Take a deep breath. 
Look around.  
Listen.
 
Speak what you say – out loud. “I see the stapler on my desk.”  ” I hear my children playing.” “I smell freshly mowed grass.” 
 
This will clear your mind, allowing you to move to a brain space where you can get creative about your situation. It moves you from reaction to response.
 
Stop – take a breath.  Look and listen.  
 
Keep breathing,
Andrea

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