When everything seems to be tumbling down at a rate you cant control what do you do? When the demands become so great you feel like even a feather put on top of your tasks will break you, what is your next step?
Here’s what happens when the stress hormones take charge. Learn to befriend them so you can kick past the problems and get ahead of the pack. Here’s how to take the cry out of crisis.
Know your body.
At low levels cortisol is good for you. It facilitates thinking and healthy decision making. A little bit of pressure helps you perform effectively. It’s that tad of anxiety before a big presentation that sets you on fire to prove your points. It’s the ‘can do’ spike of energy to help you finish the marathon. It’s the extra pressure that gets you to stand tall to prove you are worthy of the job.
Just enough cortisol is the Goldilocks Way. Not too much, not too little, yeah, just right.
However, when the stress surge happens, like a stock market plunge, a nasty email from a colleague, your partner saying “I’m outta here” cortisol floods your body. Add a strong dose of adrenaline and voila, the mind becomes paralyzed. Critical thinking goes out the window and all you can see is the threat of losing everything.
It becomes like a good old country music refrain where you lose your car, your job, your house and your gal. All at one time.
Know your patterns.
When stress hits the hot button we all fall back into old patterns, no matter how unsuitable they are for the present moment. How you got yelled at as a kid shows up when your boss or the board chairperson gives you the evil eye.
Criticism and displays of anger trigger the hormonal surge. Fear of financial loss sets your innards getting past simmer to boil. Just being told how bad and wrong you are will have you on high hormonal alert.
See which pattern was your survival mechanism when you were young that you still use today, even if outdated:
Rebel: Find a lawyer or group to join, make lots of noise to get back at others.
Procrastinator: Promise to have your work in tomorrow and keep stalling.
Clown: Joke your way through the discomfort.
Persecutor: Scream and yell and blame everyone else (or just tweet it).
Victim: Take the blame, even if you’re not to blame.
Rescuer: Jump in and help the victim by taking on the bully.
Drama queen/king: Give Oscar winning performance to deflect away from you.
Pleaser: Smile and say “yes” and then sabotage with that same smile.
Martyr: Take on all the extra work while moaning and bitching about it.
Avoider: Get out of the line of fire by leaving as fast as possible.
Denier: Play ‘let’s pretend’ and see the world through rose colored glasses.
Splitter: Talk out of both sides of your mouth and get others mad at each other.
Know the interactions.
Inside all of us are the connectors. These are the mirror neurons and oscillators. They can work for good or ill. These are the interpersonal aspects of our biology. We see, hear, and feel each other. When you stress is high it can quickly become group stress.
You know it, you’ve experienced it. Upset is contagious. Fear is contagious. Just watch a horror film with a group of people and pay attention to the group reaction.
Once you understand the biology of stress you can make changes. You will feel better and so will those you work with and those you live with. Learn to practice ‘safe stress.’ It makes a positive difference.