By: Contributing Writer
Have you left your keys in the fridge lately? I don't know about you, but 2020 started out with a bang. It may only be February but it may feel like you've done half a year of work already.
Lately, I've been acutely aware of how stress impacts our lives and our work. A different part of us shows up when under stress, and this part is seriously stunted in making the right decisions and being effective. Not only that, but it harms the people around us, by the dense "moods" we inhabit.
Find The Traumatic Event
What I've found is that if we are extremely aware of ourselves, there is often a triggering emotionally traumatic event that causes the shift between the part of us who operates in normal stressful environments and the part of us who operate in a state of overwhelm. That straw that breaks the camel's back.
A triggering event can be a sudden pile on of work, facing intense pressure from many sides, or not being able to complete an important task due to many delays out of your control.
To identify the triggering or traumatic event, ask yourself: When did I first start feeling this bad? What occurred at that moment?
Identifying the traumatic event can help us understand ourselves better and what triggers us, and when we need to step back and take a break. So when we've entered into a hyper stressed state caused by a traumatic event, we are triggered into the fight or flight response by our older, primal, Reptilian brain, and we can move into the state of hypervigilance and frenzy.
The Cost of Overwhelm
Once we are turned "ON" in this fight or flight response, we could get LOCKED in it: cortisol levels rise, adrenaline and histamines fill the body and wreck our nervous and endocrine systems... and our sanity. Not to mention our work and ability to make a difference in people's lives. We become short, cranky, we may have outbursts, and most importantly, we miss seeing the BIG PICTURE of what is really going on and make short term decisions to fix the problem rather than real, inspired solutions.
And it just feels really bad.
A Surprising Trick To Deal With Overwhelm, Burnout or Stress
Take inventory: What state are you in right now? Have you been feeling like a different person at work?
If so, give that person a name. Really. Go into who that part of you really is. Suppose her name is Sarah.
- What are Sarah's needs? What does she want? What is Sarah's fears? What is Sarah thinking right now?
- What's Sarah's physiology like? Is she breathing shallow and fast, or slow and steady? Is her jaw tight and clamped or do words easily flow from them?
- Why has that part of you come into your life and how do they believe they serve you?
Acknowledge that part of you, appreciate how they've come to serve you, and send them away. For the health of your nervous system, the efficiency of your decisions, and the opportunities missed enjoying the beautiful finite gift that life is, send them away.
Say: Sarah, I've got this, I'm in charge now, you can go take a break.
Now, who is the part of you who is more loving and kind? Or the part of you who can go in the zone of concentration at work and churn out miracles? Give that person a name.
Let's say it's Aya.
- How does Aya think? What does she want? What guides Aya's life?
- How does Aya carry herself? How does she treat others?
- What is life all about for Aya?
The trick is to send Sarah out and bring Aya in, because in a work environment if Sarah is in charge, mistakes will happen (because Sarah is short-sighted, forgetful and rash). But never make a part of you wrong. All are parts of who you are and protect you and keep you alive as the whole person you are. The part that arises from stress, Sarah, is triggered by the primal reptilian brain, and results in fear, greed and anger. The part that arises when you are more capable, Aya, is governed by the neocortex, and it's the part of us that drives humanity forward in truth, integrity and grace.
I hope this awareness helps you in bringing out even more of your innate patience, kindness, and peace in the workplace.
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Have you been stressed lately? Tell us in the comments below what you learned about the stressed part of you from that situation.