Bonus Episode: Common Stress Reactions That Derail You [Part 1]
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In the last Bonus episode I talked about using your powers of deduction to get at who you want to be as a leader and that you are not your stress reactions. I promised I would go into some of the common stress reactions so that, with an awareness of what they look like, you could choose a new reaction.
Well, as promised here are two of the most common stress reactions.
Shutting down: Cocooning
Imagine you are going about your day when suddenly, something happens.
No matter what it is, it occurs to you as bad news. In the moment it feels like the worst news. The last thing you needed right now. The straw that broke the camel’s back. It could be a change to your carefully laid out plans, an unpleasant conversation, a flat tire, burnt toast…whatever.
It really doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is it’s something you don’t like and you feel like it’s out of your control.
And then you feel the energy drain out of your body. You’re tired, defeated and you start to wonder why you try so hard. It’s already X o’clock in the morning and you feel like you need a nap.
But you can’t take a nap so instead you either go in your office and close the door, or you go to your phone to see what’s happening on facebook, or you get in your car to go to Starbucks to get a jolt of caffeine. If you’re at home you might sit on the couch and do a Netflix marathon.
You. Are. Shut. Down.
You’re batteries become depleted and you are now doing anything you can to recharge.
You may also be in a mindset where you can’t stand to be around yourself and nothing makes you happy. There may be feelings of shame or that you are worthless.
You can’t stand to have people see you like this so you hide out and go into your cocoon. So you isolate yourself from others and keep them at a distance.
This is not YOU.
This is your alter-ego in survival mode. You will recover using this method but it’s not the most effective way to hit your goals or to achieve the life you want to live.
While you are recovering, and if you find yourself here do what you can to recover… But while you are recovering you are falling a little further behind on your goals and you are ineffective at anything you try to do.
The real you is effective, capable and resourceful but the real you has taken a back seat and given the power over to the alter-ego.
Don’t give your alter-ego decision making power.
Here’s a little warning: do not make decisions when the alter-ego is in charge. They will be decisions made from the perspective of an 8-year-old. What does an 8-year-old know about what you are capable of? Exactly.
The key here is to be aware that the alter-ego has taken over. When you are aware, the power is in your court. You can make a different decision if you like. You can choose to see the situation differently and see where you do have power and control – where the woman of your experience and skill level can make a difference.
In the last episode I mentioned how I become a micro-manager when I get stressed out and feel out of control.
Well, there are times when I let that controlling part of myself off the leash so I can dive into the details and research the daylights out of a certain topic. But I’m doing it by choice and not because I feel out of control. I use my default stress reaction to serve me and not the other way around.
Life is duality. You are both in control and powerless. The key is to be in control when you are in control and to let things unfold when you are not in control…and dare I say, enjoy the ride?
Over-reacting: The Amazon Warrior
Similar to the previous situation something happens but in this instance your alter-ego’s faulty radar picks up something different. Rather than sensing a situation where there is nothing you can do you’re alter-ego picks up a threat.
That change to your carefully laid out plans, the unpleasant conversation, the flat tire, the burnt toast – they are now perceived as putting something at risk, something important. This creates conflict.
The alter-ego is now charged up and ready to do battle! Rather than turning into the Incredible Hulk (we’re women, after all) you become The Amazon Warrior.
Being an Amazon Warrior might sound eccentric and sexy. But no one likes to be around this woman and this woman has to fight for everything that she wants. She’s so unpleasant people only help her if they have to.
The battle that you create in this stress reaction can come in the following forms:
- Aggression: verbal and/or physical (though likely at your age you redirect physical aggression into some sort of workout)
- Fuming silently
- Jealousy (the more they get the less I get)
- Second-guessing yourself (yup, this battle is with you)
There is more energy in this stress reaction so you’re not likely to find yourself lying on the couch, at least on right away. But this burst of energy is on credit and you pay it back in interest. Once the adrenaline rush has passed you will likely find yourself in need of some recovery time and you slip into cocooning.
Also, any actions you take while the alter-ego is in charge will likely be misdirected. It will get you a result that is only temporary and land you with consequences that may be worse than the original perceived threat.
This stress reaction causes us to say things we don’t mean (to ourselves and others), take our fear and anger out on an innocent bystander, and make snap-decisions in the heat of the moment.
Even if you are somewhat aware of your internal conflict your attempts to hide it are futile. You’ll find yourself being critical of yourself and others, you’ll involuntarily focus on the negative (threats!) and your tone of voice/word choice/body language will give you away.
A coach of mine called this leaking. It’s gross but accurate.
You are trying to hide your volatile mood but it leaks out and as a consequence you occur to other people as “not quite right.”
This is not YOU either.
This is your alter-ego on high alert, looking for threats, and trying to protect you. It is defensive, augmentative and just waiting for someone to say or do that “thing” and it will lash out.
Again, to gain control over your alter-ego awareness is key. Be aware of what is pushing your buttons; what feels threatened and what is causing the threat.
Realize that a large percentage of the threats you perceive are just that, perceived threats. They are not real and if you can stay in current reality you can keep yourself from turning into The Amazon Warrior.
If you know one or both of these stress reactions are holding you back in your business or professional life reach out to me. This is how I serve my clients best and when they are able to manage their alter-egos and choose their response consciously they are able to keep stress away and stay focused on their goals.
As always I hope with was of value to you and here’s to your success!
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