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Change your words to change your life

Do you remember when social distancing became physical distancing?

Earlier this year, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, governments started telling people to “shelter in place”, practice “social distancing” and so on.

Why did the pandemic language change as time went on?

Language changes in response to changing circumstances

Firstly, it wasn’t accurate. We were encouraged to limit face-to-face interactions, not social interactions via phone or Zoom. Shelter in place typically refers to a hurricane or some sort of natural disaster that signals we are in imminent danger of physical harm.

Secondly, this language created a great deal of fear and worry. Our brains are wired to trigger a fear pattern when we are isolated from others and when we are in physical danger. When we read words that we associate with danger, just like in the movie The Matrix, the mind makes it real. Our brains process that we are experiencing extreme danger and start producing stress hormones so that we can act quickly to protect ourselves from harm.

As the pandemic evolved, the language used by governments changed to better reflect the actual circumstances and behaviours that were appropriate for the situation.

Old patterns lead to self-sabotage

Think about how this applies to your own self-talk. Are you using words and sentences that are out of date and triggering a fear pattern in you?

Here’s an example. Have you recently used the phrase – “I'm on the hook for this". Is it a project? Is it an obligation? Is it something you've been procrastinating on?

If you're feeling on the hook for something, you’re feeling trapped, ungrounded, and can’t see all sides of a problem. In other words, you're feeling powerless.

The last few months has left us all feeling shut-in to some degree. However, feeling that you are powerless is self-inflicted. Much of the work that I do with clients revolves around changing without pain; in other words, change is hard, but it doesn't have to be painful. Most of the pain around change that we experience is self-inflicted. The same goes for feeling trapped.

We are conditioned to develop certain beliefs over our lifetime. Feelings of obligation and being trapped may be old limiting beliefs that we’re not even aware of. Until we stop and examine these beliefs, we can’t change them.

Three steps in 5 minutes can change your life

The next time you're feeling on the hook, take 5 minutes to figure out why.

Step 1 is to examine the feeling of being trapped.

Is this feeling a fact? No. You’re experiencing a feeling of being in a situation that you can't extricate yourself from. Release any tension from your body and take a few deep breaths to rid yourself of any anxiety around that trapped feeling.

Step 2 is to examine the why behind the feeling.

Did you say yes to something that you wanted to say no to at the time but didn't want to disappoint? The why behind the feeling is the discomfort of setting boundaries or holding other people accountable for their responsibilities. Rocking the boat is not the same as capsizing the boat!

Step 3 is to take action.

When we start to empower ourselves by voicing our needs and setting boundaries it can feel scary and it can feel as though we are endangering ourselves. Start small to minimize the impact on your nervous system and to build your tolerance for dealing with conflict.

The next time someone asks you to do something that you’re not able to do, don’t answer right away. Take a breath, connect with your feelings and relax any muscular tension. This will help your body language be relaxed – remember that nonverbal cues make up a significant portion of communication!

You can respond with something like, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my schedule won’t allow me to take on any extra work.” If you're nervous doing this, you can ask a trusted friend or a coach to practice with you

until you feel more comfortable having these types of conversations.

You deserve to have your needs met. You deserve to have people respect your boundaries. You have the power to manage your emotions and the reactions of others.

Don’t go it alone. For guidance and support on your journey, you can

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