anxiety, inspiration, leadership, life lessons, management, mindfulness, motivation, training, work life

Stress Much?

Whenever I used to frown, my mom would say “Don’t do that, your face will stay that way.”  She was right – the picture above is a self-portrait.  That’s not true – I only mildly resemble a sharpei.  But you do get my point.  Depending upon the success of my nights in the arms of Morpheus (I love that line), I can wake up with a start, my brain flitting through the worries du jour, the have-tos that I neglected to do the day before (which I realize diminished their importance as obligations) and the ‘should have dones’ that didn’t even register.  Once I have coffee, all bets are off and I wave the white flag because my mind begins to travel at a speed that has yet to be measured scientifically.  Perhaps I have a bionic brain – the thoughts fly with the speed of sound, I just don’t necessarily get anywhere.

I’ve reached the point though where I can laugh at this (btw, in the picture above I am laughing – can you tell?).  These exercises in self-flagellation are futile, and bear nothing like those scenes in “Fifty Shades Of Grey” where ostensibly everyone is enjoying the experience far more than me, and their vocalizations don’t resemble my “Oh damn” or “I can’t believe I forgot to do that – you dummy”.  Sometimes I say things even worse, but no need to repeat them here.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  We know better.  We know it is better to step back, breathe, prioritize and discard the non-essential.  I’ll go a step farther – we also know this is learned behavior, and as such can be ‘unlearned’.  I think there is something self-reinforcing in experiencing this kind of stress.  In a convoluted way it reminds us that we’re important, our contributions matter – within the circle of our life, our actions are critical to keeping the cosmic wheel turning.  Is that enough of a motivator to keep stressing ourselves out?  Um…no.  Because in the final analysis, our ‘musts’ are not about fundamental survival, coordinating organ transplants (unless you’re an organ transplant doctor, in which case I apologize) or responding to life or death situations.  We are creating this level of pressure in our own minds.  It isn’t until the you-know-what hits the fan that we realize that we’ve been stressing over things that are overblown in our own minds.

We are making ourselves slightly crazy.  And our sanity rests to a large degree in our perception of how big our requirements loom.  If we accept that every routine day is  inevitably disrupted multiple times, some things don’t go as planned and other events are out of our control.  So be it.  Perhaps we can gain some control over what we choose to get exorcised about.  Maybe today we can start our day differently – committing to ourselves that as involved as we are going to get in our day, we are not going to let it gain zombie-control over our life (my understanding is that once you give a zombie control of anything, they pretty much grab the whole enchilada).  When our tendency is to over-react to the problems in front of us, instead we will create some distance so that we can look at them for what they really are.  One challenge at a time, fix it and move on.  Maybe we can honestly acknowledge the days that seem to pass without asap incidents or increases in blood pressure, for there are those too – and it doesn’t mean you’re not a diligent, capable and important.

Just try it and let me know how it goes.  Let me know what happens when you take a step back instead of running directly into the fray.  If I have any success with this, I’ll let you know too.  Unless I am attacked by a zombie, in which case all bets are off.


19 thoughts on “Stress Much?”

  1. thoughts fly with the speed of sound, I just don’t necessarily get anywhere

    Why do we do this to ourselves? We know better.

    our contributions matter

    We are creating this level of pressure in our own minds.

    our tendency is to over-react to the problems in front of us

    create some distance so that we can look at them for what they really are

    YES. YES. YES.

  2. I’m so bad with distracted thinking and vaulting from one “perceived crisis” to the next sometimes that my fiancé has started saying “Oh, is that the ER calling?!” when my cell phone rings (and no, I am not a doctor, don’t even play one on TV). He is always quoting Stephen Covey to me, telling me to “take a step back and sharpen the saw.”. Gets damned annoying at times, mostly because I know he’s right. ;-). And Mimi, I gotta tell ya, that phrase “my nights in the arms of Morpheus” made my heart sing–so lyrical! Loved that!! 🙂

    1. I think it’s only fair that some ground rules be established before you getting married…limitations on Steven Covey quotes (accurate though they may be) is one of them…:-) Lori, sometimes I think I overthink everything – even when I’m doing something I wonder if I should be doing it differently. Just your garden variety neurotic…Have a terrific day! 🙂

      1. I am right there with ya on that Covey moratorium, and I can totally relate to over thinking. My honey calls it “analysis paralysis.” 🙂

  3. Knowing I’m in good company is so reassuring! Took the day off today to unclutter my life hoping it would unclutter my mind. So far, I’ve made an enormous list of all the things I have to do, which is just leading to more list making. Taking the step backwards right now : 0 !

      1. It is the in through the nose, out through the nose breathing I use in yoga. It has a sound quality to it, so it is a little funny if others in your studio don’t use it. 😉 It is amazing for keeping stress at bay at home…

  4. I completely relate to your post. It’s incredible what a step back and a few deep breaths can do for perspective – if we can remember to take one (and if we can quiet our dizzying minds for two seconds)! Have a lovely weekend 🙂

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