Early last week I thought my head was going to explode. I was so angry and felt really overwhelmed with EVERYTHING. I needed more time and more space and more, more, more. When I was in the thick of it I wasn’t processing my reactions as those from stress, instead I was thinking everything and everyone around me was bad and I was lucky enough to sit in the shit of all of it.
Well, welcome to reality, Julie. Taking a closer look on the inside revealed that I was mistakenly interpreting internal conflict as external problems and working really hard to make life more challenging than needed. I only realized that I was having a stress reaction after I was able to pull it together after my photo shoot (pictures to come soon!). Once I figured it out, I decided to overhaul my schedule, prioritize meditation, and #GSD instead of wallowing in the stress. BUT! But, I first had to realize that it was stress. So, how did I do that?
In reflection, there were 3 things that I did during that time that are uncharacteristic of me and what I’m now using as cues of unrealized and unresolved stress.
Name: The It’s You, Not Me State
- At the grocery store: “OMG everyone is pissing me off and I can’t believe she talked to me like that. She’s such an idiot for bagging the groceries like that, doesn’t she know apples bruise easily? Ughhh.” [Passive aggressive sigh of disgust.]
- To my husband when he’s doing me a favor and driving me to the gym: “I can’t believe he didn’t make that turn. There’s construction on 13th – how can he not know that? I need to say something.” [Proceeds to say something in the nastiest voice.]
- At the gym: “She took the bar I put out. What an asshole – doesn’t she know I always lift there.” [Cue internal hatred and vow to never be her friend + dagger eyes.]
Dangerous because: WHOA. Do I even need to comment on why it’s dangerous? Did you read what goes on during this state? It’s all about everyone else and I have no accountability for my reactions. The way I put myself out into the world is so important because that’s how I then perceive the world; it is a vicious cycle that is detrimental to everyone involved. If you noticed the only person I actually voiced these unnecessary comments was to my husband. WTF!? It’s true that we hurt the people closest to us.
Getting out: Let’s be honest with ourselves, shall we? You need to recognize that you’re doing this before you can get out of being a bitch. Sometimes it takes someone telling you – for example: Adam said to me, “You’re being mean” and a couple of days later it finally sunk in and I realized it. If you find yourself responding impolitely to everyone you come across, it’s you and not them. You get to choose how you respond to people around you. No one else controls your reactions, but you.
So, the next time you react to someone in a negative way, try to take a step back and look at the situation. Is this an unjust reaction? Answering yes to that question is highly uncomfortable (because who wants to be wrong?!), but it’s so important to figure out why you’re so quick to expend negative energy. It doesn’t seem to me that we’re all interested in being mean, so figure it out. Note: there are probably times when your reactions do feel justified, but why would you want to feel like that and perpetuate the negativity brought into your life by someone else? One of the best things about being you is that you get to choose how you react.
Name: The Everything Sucks State
The Mindset: “GOD, this sucks and life sucks and everything sucks, sucks, sucks. I hate the gym, I hate work, I’m mad at myself for not doing work, I haven’t had time to cook, our house is a mess, I’m soooooo busy, I don’t have time to be creative. Nothing is good, everything is bad and sucky and I didn’t want to do anything because why would I want to do something sucky.”
Dangerous because: Hold the phone. Seriously. The
best worst part of this state is that I DON’T ACTUALLY THINK THOSE THINGS. The Everything Sucks State is dangerous because it’s one negative sandwiched between two other negatives that become a global definition of my life – everything is sucky for all time because I feel sucky in this moment. This state kills all the good feelings and snowballs into really angry feelings.
Getting out: It’s doubtful that everything actually sucks; what’s more likely is that our perspective on the world sucks. Stop trying to do everything and do one thing. Choose a neutral or positive task and get to it. A neutral task can be going for a walk or reading a book, and a positive task can be catching up with old pals or getting a pedicure.
In the meantime, it’s also helpful to realize you’re in this state. That might be exactly what you need to get out of it. But, how do you know?
Adam gave me a piece of advice two years ago that I use often:
If the feeling you’re having is omnipresent and you can’t escape it, you can then identify it as anxiety or stress.
Mind blown. He answered a question I’d had for years: “Are these feelings real?” Yes, yes, they’re real, but they might not be what you actually think – if that makes any sense at all. Your cyclic thoughts can be a product of all the feelings you’re having. And, feelings can be tricky. When you’re consumed with one particular feeling it’s time to evaluate why you’re having that one feeling. And, then go get a pedicure. I’m serious – pampering oneself does wonders even if it’s a double-your-month-old-pedicure-with-that-pumice-stone-in-your-shower pedicure. You know what I’m talking about.
Name: I Don’t Care State [stomps away]
The Mindset: I am too stressed to care about anything, so I’m going to sit and watch tv until my eyes fall out and my butt goes numb. Oh, and that tub of ice cream…fugetaboutit.
Dangerous because: Now, don’t get me wrong –there are some moments when I do need to chill the f out: when there is a list a mile long and I can’t figure out what to do first and am super overwhelmed. So I’ll have a Take 5 and relax for a moment, meditate even. The dangerous part comes when the moment extends to many an evening and the next few days. I’ve then crossed to the I Don’t Care State and am unproductive which causes even more stress. The worst part is that I also don’t have a way to get out of it because I simply don’t care. I’m procrastinating dealing with my life and that never ends well, because, quite frankly, that shit isn’t going anywhere.
Getting out: The best thing you can do to get out of this state is to be intentional. The I Don’t Cares come from a feeling of stress and being overwhelmed. I give myself a timeframe to wallow in this state and then be done with it. For example: I’d come home from a day and something would trigger me to get into this state. I’d then tell myself I have 1 tv show to get out of it. For the duration of that tv show I would feel pretty shitty and then all of a sudden there’s 10 minutes left. SHIT! I have to do something after this show. In those 10 minutes, the magic happens. I end up setting intentions for the evening and get to it once the show is over. Last week during my “state” I ended up creating a new daily schedule because I was not getting shit done and then not caring about it saying “I’M MY OWN BOSS, BITCHES!” to really no. one. at. all. Once I put the schedule together my world changed. I had direction, I had a time frame to accomplish things and the wallow in the I Don’t Cares Was left for an hour on Tuesday. So go on with your bad self and set intentions and create your own schedule.
Stress happens – that’s life. Sometimes it’s super easy to recognize when it’s happening, other times, not so much. That’s exactly what happened to me last week – I was a mean girl who thought everything sucked and was watching too much tv because I didn’t think I needed to deal with things. What do they say – recognition is half the battle? That’s so true. Once I realized I was dealing with stress I saw the light and processed that shit. Now that I know these symptoms I can recognize them before I passive aggressively bite the head off of the cashier at Whole Foods.