Stressful thoughts signal the release of cortisol in our bodies. If unchecked, the impact on our emotional "tanks" can be pretty serious. How can we learn to reframe those thoughts that induce stress into healthier thought patterns that curb or lessen the release of cortisol?
Here’s an example: A student in my online Spanish university-level class emails me complaining about the class, an “unfair” grade, the rigorous nature of the class, due dates, excuses for not completing the work, the online language laboratory we use, or his or her experience with technical support on a given issue. Often the issues are resolved quickly and easily. However, sometimes students are disrespectful; they do not use proper “netiquette” within the email; they appear ill-mannered and react in impulsive ways. They blame me for their frustrations as I am, after all, the frontline target.
I’ve noticed that I log into my college email accounts with dread and anxiety. My breathing becomes shallower and my shoulders tense up. I’m like, “Okay.” Sigh. “What will I find here today?” I’m gearing up for obstacles and resistance. My adrenalin levels increase. I try to encourage myself that I’m putting out fires, but still I’m not exactly enjoying the experience.
Too often, there is a cost in emotional energy, and I need my emotional energy tank to be full, not depleted as a result of answering emails! After prayer and greater consideration, I isolated 5 tips to help me foster new coping mechanisms when dealing with complaints and negativity.
5 STEPS TO HANDLING COMPLAINTS & NEGATIVITY WITH GRACE
1. Breathe | Move. Before I open my email accounts, I take 6-7 deep breaths to increase oxygen and relieve any pent up stress from the get-go. Maybe I do a few jumping jacks or deep knee bends to release endorphins. I remind myself that each email is an opportunity to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
2. Listen or read carefully and without emotion. My goal is to validate my students, to acknowledge and understand the issue by asking questions. I aim to remain objective, with a clear mind. We do have the mind of Christ, and although I'm still learning what this means, shifting my perspective away from my own feelings is a good first step into understanding this.
3. Use gentle words. Scripture tells us that a "gentle answer turns away wrath" (Prov. 15:1). Before I click "send," I go back through my message to see if I can soften the wording, rephrase any sentences to make sure they suggest collaboration to resolve, not to blame, justify or dismiss.
Instead of "You should just drop this class since you are not committed to success," I can say, "I understand how difficult it is to juggle all that you have going right now in your life. I see that you are putting forth your best efforts. Have you considered taking another go at the class when things settle down a bit for you and aren't quite so stressful? Would this be a wise decision in your situation?"
4. Lay down your pride. Truth is we all goof. We're not perfect despite our best intentions. Generally, when an issue arises in my classes, I share in the blame to some extent. The stress relief valve opens up when I simply say, "This is my fault. I'm so sorry."
5. Aim to learn and improve. Criticisms and complaints offer us valuable feedback into our endeavors. If I ask myself, "What can I learn from this experience?" I am positioning myself to pivot in a more positive and healthy direction. When I try to be solutions-focused, I engage my creativity muscles to brainstorm on an outcome that would benefit all parties. Picture a positive result.
So there you have it! And what about you? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to live your life with grace under pressure? Shoot me a DM! I'd love to hear from you! :)
And remember: Keep living your best THOUGHT LIFE!
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