Your Personalized Emotional ER

The holiday season is upon us and this can be both a joyful and / or challenging time for various reasons.

One of my favourite exercises during any stressful period is to map out strategies that can help, using the Emotional ER metaphor. These are strategies that you can use when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed – and everyone’s are different. You’ll see a few of my favourite ones below.

Continuing with the metaphor… once you’ve spent enough time in the Emotional ER, you can then move onto “rehab.” Those strategies are different, as you’re no longer in the thick of the emotions and may have more strength and energy. For me, some of my “Emotional Rehab” strategies include walks in nature and yoga.

Curious to give this exercise a try? Here are a few questions to get you started:

What rooms would be in your own personalized “Emotional ER”?

What visuals would best represent each room? Bonus points for drawing them out in a map.

How would you know when you’re ready to move onto the “Emotional Rehab Centre”? (i.e., what would be your indicators)

What would your rehab plan look like?

Big thanks to David Elliott for brainstorming with me on how to bring this visual to life.

The Interplay of Certainty and Flexibility

This quick pen on paper sketch from the other night got me thinking about the interplay of certainty and flexibility in life…

I love to draw both in an app on my iPad and on paper. In the app, nothing is permanent. Every line can be erased, every shape can be modified, and every colour can be changed in one quick tap.

That said, when I’m sketching in a sketchbook with ink, the stakes are much higher. Every line is permanent. I need to take more time, be more precise, and somehow integrate my “mistakes” into the drawing.

I think life is a little like this too… there are times when we have lots of room to maneuver – like in coaching sessions when I’m helping a client prepare for a difficult conversation. We test out different approaches, experiment, and play with multiple options and scenarios.

And similarly there are also times in life when the stakes are higher and every “line” counts – like in the actual conversation itself.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t be conscientious when the stakes are low… or that we can’t be flexible when they’re high. Recognizing the difference in contexts and how this might impact the way we approach things is what’s key here.

So I’m curious… what does this drawing metaphor evoke in you?

Internal Checks and Balances

When I feel overwhelmed by situations or decisions, I do a little self-coaching to help me tap into the wisdom of my head, heart, and gut:

Head: What are the facts? What cognitive biases may be at play for me?

Heart: What feelings does this situation evoke within me? What are those feelings trying to tell me?

Gut: What does my “Spidey-sense” say about this?

Alignment: What path forward would take into consideration what I’ve learned from my head, heart, and gut?

What questions help you get unstuck when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Balancing Polarities in Difficult Conversations

We balance a lot of different polarities when we have difficult conversations.

Sometimes we need to focus on dialing up assertiveness, risk, and speaking up… but this doesn’t mean that we need to totally let go of empathy, safety and deep listening. We can do both.

These polarities may each be balanced differently at any given moment during a difficult conversation. The trick is to try and do this consciously instead of falling into our regular patterns by default.

What polarities do you balance during difficult conversations?