What to do when you get one of those heart-racing emails

KLR note All the emotions

You know when you get one of those emails or texts that gets your heart really racing? 

Something has gone wrong or has been difficult with someone (from a friend to a client to a supplier or whoever), and you’ve been communicating with them for a little while. And at first you were okay, just dealing with it. You reply, they reply. 

And then you get the heart racer. 

The one that gets you really angry or really scared or really confused or really hurt. 

As my friend Ellen says, “you are emotions”. 

You’re ONLY emotions. That’s all that’s going on when you read that email or communication. 

And there’s a very simple rule that helps me immensely with those. 

Do not respond,

until your heart stops racing. 

I shared this with a friend this week – we met up and were talking about values, and about people who do match your values and people who don’t. And how sometimes, people whose values don’t match yours can feel some pretty harsh things, see things extremely differently than you do. And sometimes they say them. In writing. 

And I have learned this the hard way: I must not respond, until my heart stops racing. 

It may take five minutes.

It may take five hours. 

It may take a few weeks.

(My friend said or “I may never be able to respond!” which could also be an option to consider – or you address it with some counselling so it doesn’t come up later in your life). 

But you must not respond until you have calmed down and can think about it from a better place. 

It doesn’t mean you won’t still be angry, or sad, or have all the emotions. It’s absolutely right to have the emotions, because it means you care. (It would be a really sad thing if you genuinely did not care about what anyone thinks or feels, ever. It means you’re solely and only focused on yourself.)

But by waiting, you will be responding – not reacting. 

Only respond once you’ve calmed down to the point at which you can rationally discuss these questions in your mind (without the heart racing again): 

  • Ask why, without judgment. Why did they respond that way? Why did I respond that way? What can I look at a little more dispassionately rather than looking at it purely based on emotion? 
  • What’s going on personally in their life right now? This may help me understand them a little better. It’s not an excuse for bad behaviour, but it gives me a little perspective. 
  • What can I take responsibility for? It’s never 100% someone else’s fault. I can always find something I could have done better, too – even if it’s tempting to say “yea but that’s so small compared to theirs”, it doesn’t matter. I’m only able to control my own actions and responses, not theirs. 
  • What can you learn from this? How can I grow? How can I (or my business or my family or my heart) do better next time? 
  • What are the blessings? One of PF’s internal values (and a personal one to me) is positivity, which we define as looking for the blessing. Looking for the good, the victories, the other side of the very hard coin. The blessings are always there. There is always a victory. I can choose to turn my perspective to see it.
  • What is the actual issue (or question or concern or problem)? If I genuinely don’t know, that’s actually good: it means there’s a little more I can do, and the situation isn’t over. It also helps, if you know what the issue is, to respond to the issue only (not all their emotions running wildly all over the place). 

My little sketch today is something i drew in the air when I was explaining this to a few friends. We drew the grey line in the air of the place of calmness, where you can see things more clearly. Where you’ve answered the above questions and your heart isn’t racing anymore. 

And what we called the “wooo-oro-oooo” line is the green and the pink and the purple and all the colours and the wildness and the feelings. (You’re “all up in your feelings about it” as one of my team members says.) 

It’s really simple. It actually applies to in person meetings, too. And things people say to you in person. I’ve definitely made mistakes, many many times, responding when my heart is racing – responding with anger or frustration or hurt or whatever else is going on in the coloured lines area. 

But this simple rule is starting to help me a lot. I’m actually finding the heart racing thing lasts a shorter and shorter amount of time the more practice I get at asking the right questions. 

And hopefully, I’m getting better at working through what is going on in the relationship that would cause them to communicate in that way – and looking back at my own self, and what I can do to be gracious, and listen, and ask good questions, and stand firm on what I need to. That’s all I can do, and then it’s their decision whether they respond – or react. 

To get #karensnotes by email every Saturday (i trust not the heart racing kind), fill in the form here.

Follow me


Well. So. Small update.

Was out hiking on mull and slipped on a rock crossing a burn, and broke my ankle. (I remember hearing an audible “crack” as I went down.)

No signal on phone. Managed to climb down a ravine to get to a more open place and hopefully signal. At that point still convinced it “wasn’t that bad”. Tried to walk along the path and realised yes, it was that bad.

Phoned coast guard, who were utter legends. Sent a boat AND a helicopter. Sun was setting and they didn’t want me sitting in the dark. Oh my word it was cold. Helicoptered out to fort William hospital (nicest people ever), then down to airdrie where I got a cast.

Ankle broken in one place. Doctors pleased (as much as you can be!) it’s a clean break & lining up well. I’ll be down for 4-6 weeks.

I’ve repeated myself a lot over the last few days so here’s the short version to all the questions, with appreciation for the care.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m also utterly exhausted & have hit the “damn, this is going to be a long road” phase. Taking it one day, one hour at a time. 

I’m being looked after. Very kind friends and things being delivered. My amazing sister @secondsunrise2 flying in tomorrow from america to be with me for a few weeks. SO grateful.

What do I need? I’m good on the basics. There have been unexpected costs and more coming so if you want to PayPal monies for deliveries or getting my car & belongings back or all the taxis or whatever, feel free. I’m hardly destitute so only do that if you want to send something useful and aren’t sure what. PayPal username karenlreyburn. Amazon wishlist in bio. Random care packages also happily received!

My car & belongings are up on mull. I have people to help and we are working on timing. But if you’re on mull and want to return a car near Glasgow, let me know :)

Shout out to the Coast Guard for being so swift, & that beautiful combination of sympathy and practicality.

Download the @what3words app. Literal lifesaver.

That’s all for now. All the love. Oh - and no, I don’t hold this against mull at all. It’s still my happy place. Things happen & the mull community has been beautiful. Shout out to @treshnish who couldn’t have been kinder. ❤️
Morning walk. I stood and watched the ferry come in and the sun lighten this little edge of the world.
Been going through old photos and letters - the last of the boxes i had stored at my sister’s house in america. 

When I first moved to Scotland, I only planned to live here for a few years and then go back. Then after a few years I wasn’t ready yet…then I got my residency…still not quite ready….then started a business…then Scottish citizenship…bought a house …finally accepted this is my home and I wasn’t moving back. 

And with every visit back to the states I would go through more boxes, more photos and letters and memories. I’d keep some and throw others away; take photos out of frames and give away the frames; and as time went on I was able to distinguish between the ones I definitely wanted and needed to keep, and those which were lovely at the time but didn’t need to be saved anymore.

Over twenty years on and this past trip I went through the very last of the boxes. I joked to my sister that I’ve now officially settled into Scotland 😆 

This photo of me and my Gramps is a fave and definitely a keeper. Most of the photos and letters I’ve kept are those of family - parents, grandparents, sisters, nieces and nephews. And as much as I love taking landscape photos, I noticed that 20 years later it’s the people photos I am more likely to keep. Thankful for the traditions and patterns of seeing family every year or so since moving to Scotland. They’re small things - baking Christmas cookies and going for walks and going for road trips - but it’s the time together and the continuing family jokes and the memories which remain. And a few photos.

My grandfather (and all my grandparents) have now passed on, but I remember with fondness sitting around at their kitchen table, eating fresh vegetables from the garden, playing scrabble, laughing and talking and drinking coffee.

It’s the small things, and the rhythms of family, which last. ❤️ 
#family #memories #grandparents #oldphotos
Made fresh mince pies for the first time ever. Over twenty years in Scotland and I’d never tried to make them from scratch, so I figured…now is the time! I’m doing lots of thanksgiving baking (yes, we stretch it out here so I’m still prepping!) and decided to buy the ingredients. 

Dried fruit…mixed peel…lots of spices…and Venezuelan rum :) I made up the mincemeat last night, and then today put it in the little pastries and even cut out the wee stars to go on top!

I think I can safely say they’re the best mince pies I’ve ever had. Fresh out of the oven sprinkled with icing sugar and with a glass of said rum alongside :) 

Now we are curled up with a Harry Potter marathon, with plenty of mince pies AND a thanksgiving feast still to come. Happiness! 

#mincepies #homebaking #maryberry #maryberryrecipe #happythanksgiving #happychristmas #harrypotter #hpmarathon