What state are you in?
Have you ever heard someone say 'she’s in a right state'?. If you have, you’ve probably made an assumption that it means that the 'she' in question is upset, perhaps anxious, or maybe angry. We often use the term to describe how we are at a given time. Indeed, it does refer to our internal emotional condition, and this can be very powerful in determining our success or failure in our actions.
It’s well documented that, if we approach our day with a preconceived state of feeling anxious, everything we do will reflect this anxiety, and we’ll look for things that will feed how we feel. The good news about this is that when you’re able to manage your state and be in charge of how you feel, then you can use this positively to choose your approach to your day.
What do we mean by state?
Our state is the representation of the combination of our thoughts, our physiology, and our feelings at any given time. It also depends on our interaction with our external environment. Some of these states are resourceful, e.g. being positive, happy, and contented. Others can be unresourceful, e.g. fear or anger. Of course, sometimes being fearful or angry can be useful, but where it's not appropriate, it can hinder, not help. Remaining in an unresourceful state can bring harm and have a negative impact on our actions.
Would you recognise when you’re in an unresourceful state? How would you know? These questions will help;
- What conversations are you having, either with yourself or others? Are they positive and forward-looking, or destructive? Are you focusing on what’s gone wrong, or what is right? Do you speak about catastrophe or what other options might be?
- What feelings can you identify inside? What physical aspects can you notice? A knot in your stomach, or relaxed and calm? Have you noticed what your heart rate is like? How about your breathing - is it accelerated?
- Do your thoughts take you to the future, anticipating with anxiety? Or, perhaps running scenarios that have happened? Maybe you’re paying full attention to what’s happening now? Do you create pictures of disaster, or are you celebrating the good things that are happening?
- What emotions are at the forefront? Happiness, or anxiety?
We make our states ourselves; yes, we really do! Yes, we live in the real world where things get messy, but we don’t need to be the cork bobbing about on the sea of others' ups and downs. And it’s not the case that we shouldn’t feel the whole range of emotions - sometimes all in one day. But, when we get stuck inside those emotions and they become a habit, starting to rule our lives, then it’s time to do something different!
Let me give you an example which was described to me by a client recently (and shared with their permission). Julia (not her real name) had been wanting to progress her career and had been successful in being called for an interview for a job that she wanted very much. There was a lot riding on this day; more money, a promotion, and more opportunities.
Naturally, she felt a bit nervous and wanted to perform well. It would have been very easy for Julia to be overcome by these nerves and become worried, but instead, she made some smart choices and did her preparation. She shared what she did;
- Excellent preparation about the company and the questions asked on the day.
- Decided what she would wear to make sure she was comfortable and feeling at her best.
- Found a keyring she could take with her that reminded her of a lovely day she had had with her family. This acted as an anchor for her, so that on the day of her interview, she could see it and feel it to remind her of the good feelings.
- Spent time imagining the interview. Although she didn’t know what the room would look like, she focused her attention on how she would sit, how confidently she would give her answers, making eye contact with the panel, her hand gestures, and other forms of body language. This aspect was probably the most important part of her preparation, as Julia could create the state she wanted to be in on the day. As she rehearsed this, her thoughts, feelings, and physiology rehearsed the good feelings involved, and because this became the 'norm', it allowed her to recreate this state on the day.
How can we manage our 'state' effectively?
Of course, Julia was able to predict this situation, so was able to plan. Often, things happen which can wobble our state on a day to day basis. But don’t despair. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to change your state to something more positive in the moment, try the following;
- Get up and move - it’s difficult to stay stuck when you’re moving.
- Listen to music - something vibrant if you want to shake off a dull mood, or something calming if you want to calm anxious thoughts.
- Focus on something else - if you’re fully immersed in something else, your brain isn’t able to tumble unhelpful thoughts round in your head.
- Challenge your beliefs - does it have to be this way? What else could it mean?
So, now you can see, can’t you, how useful it is to feel you can manage your state on purpose, and how you can easily apply these simple steps to whichever situation you choose. Often, talking things through with a good coach can help too!
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