The Effects of Stressing and Rushing

I tend to be a stresser.

If you read here regularly, you’ll remember that I briefly mentioned that stress inhibits self-reflection and self-awareness. I might not have the details right but basically when you’re stressing out, your body kicks into the fight-or-flight response and that shuts down most everything else. Because at this point you’re in emergency mode where you’re worried about whether a tiger’s going to eat you and in those cases, thinking things through is not to your benefit. You want to just run.

But, in my life, I don’t tend to face tigers that often.

I noticed in the last few days that when things don’t go as expected, I tend to panic and stress. I’m a fixer. It’s what I do. So if I don’t know enough or I don’t have the power to fix it, I get more and more panicky. Which makes pretty much all of my higher-thinking shut down. And then I can’t even think so I panic more.

See where I’m going with this?

Yes, it’s not pretty.

I find that the less knowledgeable I am or the less power I have, the more this happens. And when I stress and can’t think, I panic and then I feel a sense of rush. I need to rush, rush, rush. Which then means I make more mistakes and get more frazzled.

And then I just want to curl up.

I noticed that when something goes wrong, I tend to elevate its urgency. When I am feeling weak, like I’ve been recently, I trust myself less in all areas of my life, and then I tend to make things even more important and urgent then they are. Which makes me behave in a way that leaves me feeling weak and small. And it just lives in that vicious cycle for a while.

So, instead of doing that again, I’ve been trying to pay attention to my impulses more. When things go wrong (which seems to be happening frequently, lately) I tell myself to take a break. I say it out loud. I get up and walk around for three minutes. I then sit back down and calm myself down so I can think. I figure out a list of things I will try next. And then I get to work.

The stepping back, walking, making a list, etc. all buy me some time. This way my fight-or-flight stops taking over and I can calm down and engage my higher thinking. So I can come up with some rational next steps. Creating an environment where I can think again is the most important crucial first step. Once I can think, logic comes in handy and almost always helps me solve my problem.

It’s getting access to the logical thinking that matters most.

If there’s a tiger in my living room, it’s ok to let stress take over. But in just about every other situation, I’ve come to believe that stress does not serve me.

And, remember, I’m all about getting rid of things that don’t serve me.

Just like Brene’s talks and books help me recognize the feeling of shame, I’m working to learn to recognize the feeling of stress. Because if I can recognize it, I can remember that this is not the time to make decisions.

And I can wait for it to go away.

It all starts with recognition.

3 comments to The Effects of Stressing and Rushing

  • […] to build on itself at work through my lack of taking action to reduce it. What I took away from Karen’s post is […]

  • Mel

    You always such a wonderful way of putting things. You are just great and brave because it’s so easy to gloss over the tough things but you’re meeting them head on and you make me want to take the harder path and learn to recognise too.

  • zewa

    Hi Karen,
    I have a recommendation – the 5-4-3-2-1 method: name 5 things you see, name 5 things you hear, name 5 things you notice about yourself (how you sit, where you put your hands, how your skin feels, things like that) then repeat with 4 things (ideally different from previous items), then repeat for 3 things, then for for 2, then for 1 – great way to step out of the stress zone, and get a distance to things.

    I am really curious what rattled you these past 2 weeks (I always wish you have a “work” blog)

    Take care

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