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Are you liable to flooding?

Over the last few weeks, the roads around our village have been flooded several times, sometimes so much so there was no way out and we were trapped.

Flooding occurs when the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the environment to handle it.

Flooding happens in humans too...

Have you ever had that feeling when everything is too much?

This is called emotional flooding and symptoms may include

  • Increased heart rate

  • Breathing becomes shallow and quick

  • Trouble focusing

  • Increased muscle tension throughout the body

  • Negative self-talk

  • A strong desire to escape or stop the situation

  • Feelings of anxiety/overwhelm

  • A pit in your stomach

  • Feeling like your throat is constricted

Have you experienced any of these symptoms?

What's going on in the body and brain?

Our nervous system is always trying to figure out a way to for us to survive, to be safe. When our cues of danger significantly outweigh our cues of safety, our nervous system switches gear into a state of protection impacting our physiology (see above) and behaviour (see below).

Everyone experiences emotional flooding at some point, in toddlers we call it a tantrum and in adults a meltdown or outburst. Language is important, and labels can do more harm than good, I call it what it is 'nervous system dysregulation' and 'emotional flooding'.

What we see is labelled and judged but when understand what drives human behaviour we have more tolerance, compassion and ways to help

How does emotional flooding impact business leader's behaviour?

Occasional and temporary nervous system dysregulation is part of being human, but when leaders experience emotional flooding in the workplace, it impacts their performance, team and can be felt across the entire organisation.

For business leaders emotional flooding can manifest in several ways:

1. Decision-Making Impairment: Business leaders are often required to make important decisions under pressure. Emotional flooding can impair their ability to make rational decisions as intense emotions may cloud their judgment. They might struggle to weigh pros and cons objectively, leading to impulsive or suboptimal choices.

2. Communication Challenges: Effective communication is crucial for leaders. Emotional flooding may result in difficulty expressing thoughts clearly or empathising with others. Leaders may become more reactive, defensive, or confrontational in their communication, which can negatively impact relationships with colleagues, subordinates, or stakeholders.

3. Stress and Burnout: Business leaders are often under high levels of stress due to the demands of their roles. Emotional flooding can contribute to increased stress levels, potentially leading to burnout if not effectively managed. Persistent emotional overwhelm may result in decreased resilience, coping abilities and ill health.

4. Impact on Team Dynamics: Leaders play a key role in fostering a positive work environment and cohesive team dynamics. Emotional flooding can disrupt team dynamics as leaders may struggle to maintain a calm and composed demeanour. This can affect team morale and lead to increased tension or uncertainty among team members..

5. Decreased Cognitive Performance: Emotional flooding can impact cognitive functions, such as concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills. Business leaders may find it challenging to focus on complex tasks or engage in strategic thinking when overwhelmed by intense emotions.

6. Health Consequences: Frequent or prolonged emotional flooding can have negative physical and mental health consequences. Business leaders may experience symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and a compromised immune system, which can further exacerbate their ability to handle stress and make sound decisions.

How can understanding the nervous system help?

The nervous system is one of the biggest systems in our body and it governs all other systems (and how we relate to our environment and other people), the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the ‘master key’ to health and performance.

The autonomic nervous system directs our internal resources, energy to the brain, digestive system or muscles etc. When the real or perceived demand for energy exceeds the energy available our body budget tilts out of balance impacting us physically, emotionally and mentally.

A healthy nervous system is not always calm but is able to move flexibly from state to state.

Many leaders are experiencing this internal energy imbalance while simultaneously trying to handle a demand-resource imbalance in their organisation. This mismatch creates a vicious cycle of myopic thinking and quick fixes as well as health and performance issues.

This is why it is time to take a different approach, one that goes deeper to the common denominator in our human experience, the nervous system.

Developing self-awareness and knowing how the nervous system and brain respond to and recover from the demands and challenges of daily living helps leaders regulate their emotions, these are essential skills for business leaders to navigate the challenges of their roles effectively.

Leaders who can then apply these insights and strategies are better equipped to navigate challenges and foster environments that promote psychological safety, trust and collaboration.

What can you do to prevent emotional flooding?

Preventing emotional flooding begins with elevating your energy levels- your body budget

  • Prioritise your sleep

  • Eat a healthy diet and avoid processed foods

  • Exercise regularly but not too much

  • Spend time with people you know, like and trust

  • Get outside, fresh air, sunlight and a change of environment reset the nervous system

  • Develop a toolkit to regulate your energy in the moment

Next it is important to understand how emotions are constructed in the brain and learn how to use self-directed neuroplasticity to build and strengthen new neural pathways that support helpful psychological predictions.

To help with elevating energy and emotional regulation seek training and support from someone who uses a neurobiological approach to enhance the health and performance of business leaders.

If you would like to learn more, please schedule a free discovery call, I'd be delighted to share how this approach has helped others.

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