Over the last few years, many people have looked at their lives and decided it was time to make some adjustments for their well-being and happiness, especially regarding their professional careers. The problem is that although change is good, it can initially come with some discomfort and uncertainty. Even if you believe it’s time to switch directions, venturing down a new path can be scary.

When I decided to join the great resignation a few months ago, I thought I would feel liberated and courageously leap into the unknown with bold enthusiasm. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I felt unsteady, and self-doubt started creeping in. I soon realized that although things weren’t perfect at my previous job, I had found great comfort in the predictable. I felt stable and secure working in an office culture I understood.

My fear of the unfamiliar at the new company was overshadowing the joy I felt about the amazing opportunity. As a personal life coach, I knew the inner peace and confidence I longed for would have to be found internally. Rather than placing so much attention on my external environment, I needed to focus on myself. My self-awareness was the only thing in my control and would be the key to my optimism and success.

The truth is we have the power to choose the lens through which we see what is happening to us at any given moment. So when I need to shift my mindset and viewpoint, I use the simple four-step process called the P.A.L.M Method.

This powerful tool provides the clarity and perspective needed to let go of any disempowering and unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that might be holding you back from dealing with situations in a healthy and positive way.

The letters in PALM stand for Physicality, Attention, Language, and Meaning.

1. P – Physicality

Since emotional issues have a physical side to them, it helps to know what your body does when you are stressed, upset, or feeling bad about yourself.

We often don’t recognize the connection between our bodies and mental states. As a result, we move through the day feeling tired and tense because we aren’t checking in with how we are managing the stressors in our life.

Whether it’s a minor annoyance like running late or traffic, or more substantial concerns like financial issues or problems at work, understanding the correlation between how you feel physically and emotionally will enable you to use your body to make you feel better.

It helps to stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is happening with my body when I feel stressed?

For example, does your stomach feel tied in knots, or do you get headaches?

  • What are my facial expressions?

Notice, is your jaw clenched, or are you scowling or frowning?

  • What are my hands and feet doing?

Are your hands in a tight fist, or are you tapping your feet or shaking your legs?

  • How is my posture?

Observe, are your shoulders forward and your back slouched?

Once you scan your physical state, you can modify your emotional state by reducing tension in the areas of your body impacted by your negative feelings.

If our shoulders are hunched forward, this is physiologically a sign of fear or insecurity. However, by standing up straight and rolling our shoulders back, we can start to feel more powerful and confident. Similarly, noticing and relaxing the tension in our jaw, shoulders and hands can do wonders for transforming anxiety or anger. Some studies show that consciously smiling can alter your emotional state by releasing happy hormones in the body like dopamine and serotonin, making us feel better.

The best part is these simple physical hacks can be done quickly and in any situation.  

2. A – Attention

When caught in a specific emotional state, we automatically start thinking of things that reinforce that same emotional state. For example, when we are stressed or feel hurt, we tend to reflect on other similar situations and get even more stressed or angry about whatever we are dealing with. When we lack confidence, we imagine all the times we failed or were judged, making us feel even more insecure.

Ask yourself:

  • Where does my attention go when I experience negative feelings or have disempowering thoughts?
  • What memories come up when I feel stressed or insecure vs. confident and relaxed?
  • Am I starting to nitpick and point out other things that reinforce my emotional state right now?
  • Where could my attention go if I was in a different emotional state?

Like motivational author and coach Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” We can direct our energy to more productive outlets by noticing and altering our focus.

A few powerful ways to shift out of negative states are to think about what you are grateful for, recall happy memories, journal about what is going well in your life, or do something lighthearted that makes you laugh. Making a conscious effort to focus on the positive rather than obsessing over the negative will help you be happier in the moment and in life.

3. L – Language

The language we use has extraordinary power. This is true for the words we choose to communicate with others and our internal dialogue.

Ask yourself: 

  • What words am I using with others when I am stressed vs. calm or feeling self-doubt vs. self-assured?
  • What words do I use in my thoughts when I lack confidence or feel overwhelmed?
  • What words would I use if I were in a happier, more relaxed emotional state?

When stressed or upset, we often describe how we feel in our heads or share it with others. Repeatedly making statements like “I am so tired” or “I am so mad” makes you feel worse. Sometimes we’ll use judgmental words like could and should. Research shows statements like “could have” and “should have” can be particularly damaging when used in our internal monologue, as they relate to feelings of inadequacy.

You can dramatically change how you feel inside by consciously altering the words you choose to use for yourself and others. The point is not to deny the present circumstances but to change your language to move out of a negative state so you start to feel better. Rather than speak defeat into your life, you can cheer yourself up with more positive and empowering language.

4. M – Meaning

As human beings, we have a natural tendency to assign meaning to every experience and interaction we have. You may have heard the phrase, “we are meaning-making machines” before. The problem is most of the time, the meaning comes from our subconscious mind, and we tend to assign things a negative connotation.

For example, perhaps someone says, “Hey, you look good today!” Do you take that to mean they are simply noticing you look nice right now, or do you feel like they are saying you don’t look good on other days?

Or, if your boss or colleague says, “Wow, you did a really great job on this project!” Do you take that to mean they are simply noticing your good work, or do you feel like they are saying your previous efforts were average or unimpressive?

Again, the meaning you attribute ties closely to your emotional state.

Ask yourself:

  • What meaning am I taking from this situation, and how might it relate to how I’m feeling right now?
  • What meaning could I be getting from this if I was in a different emotional state?

The more aware you are of the meanings you make from situations, the more you can see what is healthy and working in your favor and what is working against you and needs modification. When you take a moment to gain this clarity, you will be less likely to beat yourself up for not being perfect or take situations with others personally or in the wrong way.

Luckily, we can consciously choose a different meaning by being mindful of our thoughts. 

After recognizing the physical associations, attention, language, and meaning of your emotional states, start brainstorming how to alter them. By thinking about your alternatives, you can prime your subconscious to choose those alternatives the next time you are struggling.

For example, you can ask yourself, if I was happy or calm, what would my body be doing right now? How would my language be different if I felt confident and in control? Where would my attention be going if I felt grateful and fulfilled? And finally, what meaning would I be making from this situation if I felt appreciated and supported instead of attacked?

The next time you feel your emotions bubbling up, take note of your emotional state by identifying the PALM categories. As you grow to understand yourself, the more empowered you will become to take command of your day and your life.