Pause for Stress  

Imagine you’re tired . . .

hungry because you skipped lunch . . .

and under a tight deadline.

Now, a phone is ringing and your teenager just texted that they’ve been in an accident.

Stress happens.

Some version of it is inevitable.  Frequently.

Last month we looked at some sources of stress and how we can make matters worse by magnifying the impact with our self-generated fears.  The recommended coping strategy is to increase our self-awareness and maintain perspective.

While we can take some preventative steps around personal environmental factors such rest, diet, and exercise, generally we know what we should be doing but most of us don’t give ourselves the advantage of sustaining healthy balances.

So, if we accept that we are going to face stress, how do we want to handle it when it does happen?

At one end of the spectrum are unhealthy reactions. Some seek to take the edge off, quickly and easily.

In an effort to dull intense, tough feelings caused by stress, they seek distractions ranging from excessive shopping or TV watching or engage in other compulsive behaviors involving food, drugs and alcohol.

Stressful situations are doubly challenging–just when we are facing circumstances that demand we be extra resourceful and adept, our physiological fight/flight/freeze is triggered and draws blood (much needed to think clearly, quickly) to our arms and legs and away from our brain.  I’s not so surprising that we blurt the exact wrong thing in a highly stressful moment.

Plus, that sharp remark can add a brand new layer of stress:  remorse over what we said and now a need to patch things up.

We want to avoid knee-jerk reactions and instead demonstrate more measured, thoughtful responses.

P a u s e . . .

A pause can refresh.

Kevin, an avid golfer, talks about pausing in the backswing.  (Swinging very hard usually produces unwanted results landing in water or the woods.)

Jim says he is not responsible for his first thought but he is responsible for his second thought.  He makes a deliberate effort to rein in the first thought silently and create space for a higher version of himself to respond in a positive way.

Caveat Reactor: Because the urge to be heard can go beyond the triggering moment, there can be an extended need for self-management and to exercise restraint of pen and tongue, a familiar refrain.

How can we practice this?

P a u s e  . . . take a breath . . . wait a beat . . . create your own method of inserting a comma.

Let go and let it become a habit.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

It sounded so much better in my head.

Success and leadership.