Did you know we each have a “favourite” stress response? The expression of stress is unique to each of us, and to the situation we are in, but we have a “go to” stress expression when the inevitable peace shattering, *stuff* hitting-the-fan event happens. We either express anger, shame or anxiety; sometimes just one and sometimes all three in a “merry-go-round” from hell. Which of the three we typically start with when overwhelmed by emotions is an expression of our core belief. “Core Beliefs are deep-seated perceptions that everyone has about the world in which we live, work and play. Core Beliefs impact how we think, feel and behave as well as how we interact with other people and our general view of the world.” (Peter Barow, Core Beliefs). Each of us use our core beliefs to make decisions, they are useful in helping us navigate the world. However, a core belief is ever-present so its there “helping” you navigate when you are stressed too.
In these descriptions we can feel our instinctual reactions to stress, disappointment, etc. What’s important to remember here is while we may not always like it, being emotional isn’t a bad thing; we are emotional when we are excited about something, or when we feel tears of joy. Your instinctual stress response appears when your behaviour surrenders to the pressure you are under, and so begins the “merry-go-round”. While one of these responses is your “go to”, you can easily move into all three; you forgot a deadline at work (shame), someone was less-than professional about calling you out on it (anger) and now you are worried everyone thinks this way of you (anxiety). Merry-go-round from hell. Round and round the feelings go, and when it stops nobody knows. The longer you stay on it, the more entrenched the overwhelming feelings get, the more frequently they come visit you, the faster the merry-go-round spins keeping you on it longer each time…and you ask yourself things like ”Why is this happening to me!!!!”
You do control how long you are on that merry-go-round, and this can be accomplished with just a few simple but intentional actions. First, get familiar with identifying when you are on the merry-go-round and (when you are there), rather than asking yourself “Why is this happening to me?” ask yourself “What is this trying to teach me?” The act of re-framing what is happening stops the carousel of chaos, letting you off to begin a much better journey, one filled with curiosity and self-compassion.
(The three stress responses is based on the work of Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Triadic Self, page 49 – 59)
“Failure has always been a part of the plan. Without it, we don’t grow.” ~ Carleen Hicks
Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash
You get out of bed each morning to do your best at work and for your loved ones, but along the way *stuff* happens. Traffic is bad, your boss is in a mood or that work that was supposed to be done by the client is delayed…or whatever other disruptive event puts a dent in your day. Feelings of anxiety, anger or shame arise (sometimes all three in a merry-go-round from hell) and really make it hard for you to continue in your day feeling good about yourself or your work.
You need a break.
However, most of us don’t give ourselves the break we need when we are feeling ashamed, frustrated or stressed out about work; we put our head down and work harder. Ignoring your needs is a losing proposition. Here is something to think about so you remember to take a well-deserved break, allowing you more well-being at work (even on a “bad” day). It’s called H.A.L.T.
Hungry: When was the last time you ate? If you are thundering through your day on the dying fumes of the granola bar you ate at 10:30 a.m. then you are not going to be resilient when the next disruptions hits. Get something nutritious to eat, give yourself the quality fuel you deserve (which is not at the drive thru of a fast food restaurant…)
Angry: You are going to get angry at work for a variety of well-deserved reasons. You were cut-off mid-sentence in a meeting. Your idea was shot down unceremoniously by the new guy (whom you trained…), the list is endless really. If you are angry, call it and take a walk, get a coffee or sit in the “quiet” room at work to allow your emotional self to catch up to your present self. You’ll thank yourself (and you are worth it).
Lonely: It is possible to be lonely at work, in the midst of the hum and bustle you can feel abandoned (your boss missed your one-on-one), cut off (not allowed to speak freely in a meeting) or like you have been metaphorically left on a hill to die (when you don’t even remember how you got there). Find a friendly face or voice and give yourself some love.
Tired: How much sleep do you get a night? Ouch! How much sleep are you supposed to get a night. Yup, 7 to 8 hours. A night. Since most of us upstanding adults don’t get quite that much uninterrupted sleep, give yourself a break when you are tired at work, sit and do nothing for a few minutes in between tasks to rest. Commit to getting more rest a night (this is an important life skill to build). You are not yourself when you are tired…you are a walking petri dish susceptible to whatever illness is making the rounds at work (or at your kids school…). Recognize when you are tired and plan to get the rest you need before you get sick…or snap at someone.
H.A.L.T. is a great tool to give yourself permission to take a break at work...and when you can do this compassionately for yourself, you are much more likely to be able to be compassionate with others. It’s an act of kindness to understand your needs (or someone else’s) and do the right thing. “There is virtue in work an there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.’ ~ Alan Cohen
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Let’s look at the word “career” for a moment. A career is typically understood to be any working experience throughout your active life (both paid and unpaid); from your first “paycheck” job to the day you retire from actively engaging in work (volunteer or otherwise). However, most of us would argue that isn’t a career; my client’s come into career coaching identifying a “career” as the professional pursuits they have on their resumes. The work that launched them into professional life, the work they are most proud of, the work they feel their best at.
While we can (and should) be selective on what we represent to others on our resumes and social media profiles (so as to attract and retain the types of work that really interest us), this “selective reasoning” often obscures the fact that many of us end up getting bumped around in our careers, following meandering paths of employment based alternately on hard work and luck. Let me ask you this; is your profession a career? If that question gave you pause then let me ask another one; where does your career “compass” point?
In order for our work to be fulfilling and gratifying it needs to be grounded in meaning and purpose. If we haven’t intentionally sat down to think about what we feel our purpose is in what we do for a living, then many of the benefits of a working life cannot be leveraged (beyond the paycheck…and money alone isn’t enough to give us well-being in our work). Often our working lives become “scenery”, something we go through, not unwillingly, but without a lot of conscious thought, joy, gratitude or intention. If looking at your career from where you are now makes you feel like you are not where you want to be, you’ve got an example of the collateral damage drifting through your working life can cause. Dissatisfaction, malaise, anxiety, imposter syndrome and many other energy-sucking feelings arise when we don’t take full accountability for actively managing our career, recognizing our own great potential.
You may be in the best profession, in the best job and in the best company for you to be working in right now and you might not even know it. Take a moment to look around and see (and if you are in the right place, take time to enjoy it). If you know you are not in a place that makes you feel good about yourself in your work, then where would you like to go? Plan from there back to where you are now. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it means facing potential gaps in knowledge and skills. Yes, it means investing in yourself (or convincing your current employer to invest in you). You are worth it, right? (Hint: the answer is “yes”).
Most of us spend 10 hours or more a day getting to, being at, and then getting home from work (work plus commute). That is a lot of life to be living in “meh” because your potential isn’t being engaged. No one else is likely going to determine your career course with purpose and intent, only you can do this for yourself (and you are worth it). So, how do you want to invest your abundant potential?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
- from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
(Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash)
Persistent worries do not come from nowhere. Our imaginations can take a fleeting thought and quickly blow it up into concern for a reason – the concern our imaginations tap into is already in us, waiting for a vulnerable moment to make itself known. This is one of the things that makes it so difficult to manage every day fears and concerns…while they are not objective, or even based in fact (because worry is focused on something that may happen in the future) worry does arise from the deepest part of us, and that gives it a level of credibility that carries it further into our lives then we intend.
If you have ever taken your worry out for a cup of coffee, explored it as a companion sitting beside you (rather than an invisible force inside you) then you may have learned that worry has it roots in deep caring. We worry about work because we have a deep commitment to what we each do. We worry about loved ones because we care for them so very much. This deep knowing lives inside of each of us, but it also makes us feel powerless because we also know that we only control ourselves (not the wider world around us); it is a state of humanness that at times is overwhelming.
When we are overwhelmed the control we do have kicks in, and we find ways to disconnect ourselves from these persistent, invasive emotions; to give ourselves a break, sometimes by numbing out with TV, food, alcohol, etc. This is how (as beautiful human beings) we get disconnected from ourselves, our bodies, our best intentions and our loved ones. "The symptoms of this disconnect are familiar: lack of self-trust, emotional and intellectual rigidity, fear of change, perfectionism, narcissism, addictions, and free-floating anxiety...This dis-ease is commonplace in our society, regardless of age or sex, race or class, education or income. The world we live in is a breeding ground."(from: Writing The Mind Alive, page 91; Linda Trichter Metcalf, PH. D. and Tobin Simon, PH. D. Ballantine Books, 2002).
The antidote? It is mindfulness. Mindfulness is about connection... re-connection to be specific. Mindfulness is innate, which means each of us is born with the ability to be mindful; that is to be in the moment. This moment right here. Not reactive or overwhelmed, but fully present occupying no other thoughts or actions other then to see this moment just as it is. It is a powerful way to re-connect to our lives, our loved ones and ourselves. Its free and ever-present; something you can practice anywhere. While mindfulness is innate, it is also a choice; it is up to each of us to engage it. Mindfulness asks you to do nothing... with intention. Just sit. Listen to yourself. Really listen to yourself without getting attached to what you are thinking. Take some time for yourself to do this because mindfulness only gives, it never takes from you; it gives you more connection to yourself, to your body, to your loved ones, to your work. You will be better able to face your fears, to see the “story” in what your worry is telling you. With this truth you can be discerning about what is real and what is not and compassionately address your fears. You will be more fully connected, a gift that only gives and is always there for you. Be present in your life, you are worthy of this gift.
Find resources to support mindfulness at http://www.loveyourworkinglife.com/mindfulness.html (in addition to the practice, there are smart device apps and other options listed at the bottom of the page).
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.