Stress management when you are supposed to be an expert.
How a Stress Management Specialist dealt with her own stress and anxiety.
In 2019 I had a ‘stress management’ experience that rocked my world. It was one of those things that you don’t see coming, that you have no contingency for and that challenges every aspect of your life. After 20 odd years of successfully teaching others how to manage stress and anxiety I was suddenly on the other end of the experience in a really big way.
How did I cope given I am supposed to be good at this kind of thing?
Chaos precedes Calm
Initially I didn’t. Chaos reigned and as a result, disbelief and confusion dominated the next few hours, and then I went into emergency coping mode.
There is a safety mechanism available to us that shows up in extreme circumstances. We have the capacity to isolate down to specifically what needs to happen in any given moment. We become very micro focused, there is no long term or future planning, in fact, almost nothing beyond the immediate task or issue in front of us. This hyper focused thinking is an example of being in the moment in an extreme but not necessarily healthy way. It serves the purpose of keeping us in action but it is not a long term solution by any stretch of the imagination. Shielding, reassuring and supporting my staff, my clients, and my family became my absolute focus and priority.
Whilst I could feel myself struggling to keep going I was absolutely determined to protect and minimise the impact on those around me. That was my role in ‘normal’ life and I simply followed the script. We all do this, it is understandable and common.
Can I say this protective response was wrong?
I don’t think so. At the time it felt like the only thing I could do.
Did it help me? Initially it gave me a focus and allowed time for events to unfold. I am not sure I could have done anything else. However, whilst I accomplished making others feel secure I also diminished their understanding of the impact I was experiencing. I also denied them the opportunity to be of support to me because on the outside I looked like I was fine.
Too often whilst we look like we are coping we are actually drowning and indeed after the first couple of days I began to notice the wheels starting to fall off. This was evident in the following ways:
1. Being unable to talk about the event
2. Not wanting updates or opinions from others including support
3. Wanting very badly to shut down, no people, no noise, no light
4. Stopping normal activities including those that might actually support me
5. Loss of appetite
7. Volatile emotions
8. Being triggered by very small things
I was observing myself starting to spiral and become increasingly concerned. So, what did I do?
Actually, I interviewed myself with one of my own intake forms as if I was a client. What this revealed was (drum roll please) I really needed help. As a very self-sufficient person and a stress management specialist of many years experience this was hard to accept. I had built my business and reputation on having the tools and solutions to get people through these types of experiences. I had always prided myself on how well I managed all aspects of my life. In this case ‘I’ was just not enough. I was too far ‘in’ the experience to reach perspective. This was a salient and valuable lesson.
As much as I berated myself (and I did) the smarter part of me realised I needed a dose of my own medicine. How many times had I reassured clients that getting support was the right thing to do!
We do not have all the resources we need all the time. This is especially true with new experiences.
Seeking advice and bringing my life back to a core set of activities and fundamentals was the first step. This helped me to feel slightly more in control and rebuilt my shaky confidence.
For me the basics included:
1. No social media, radio or TV
2. Using my own tools, hypnosis, tapping, self reflection and coaching
3. Connecting with my coach and getting real
4. Having only positive conversations with my family and team, being honest and optimistic
5. Focusing on some exciting events I had coming up (yep – this was extremely difficult to begin with).
6. Clean food
7. Maximum hydration
9. Early bedtime
11. Body work
12. Breath work
14. Doing nothing and allowing it to be ‘ok’
16. Letting others know I needed their support
17. Allowing in amazing support
From Chaos to Calm for a Stress Management Specialist
For a brief moment I hesitated to share this. When I took a look at the reasons why I realised it was about me thinking I might be perceived as less professional or capable or some how just less. I know; ridiculous. One of my core values is to support people to get support. It is what I believe in. How can I authentically encourage others to reach out for support from me if I am not honest that I also need it. There needs to be integrity around what we ‘do’ and ‘who’ we are.
How about you? Do you feel congruent with your ‘do-ing’ and ‘who-ing’?
**This blog was originally written many months ago and published elsewhere. In light of current events I decided to dust it off. I hope it resonates with you. We are all a work in progress. Managing stress and anxiety is a process. It requires revision, refinement and reimagining.
Dr Linda Wilson is a Mindflow Mentor, Author and Presenter. From neuroscience to energy psychology, habits change to emotional management – let’s have a chat about you, your team or your business. Are you looking to find your way through, around or over something? Are you in need of a course correction and need support. Make a time to #connect firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about me at www.drlindawilson.com
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Category: Stress Management Tools