Life Practice 4: Know that under stress we regress

Knowing how you behave under stress is empowering because you be able to recognize that you are stressed, and you can invoke some of your own interventions to generate options.  As we have seen in previous practices, naming something is the first step towards fixing it.

Know how you are when stressed

Stress is one of those things that can creep up on us. As our lives become busier and we take on more tasks, all can be going smoothly until there is an unexpected interruption to our routine. This could be an additional rush task at work, a parental obligation or even a flat tire.

Life is full of stressors, resulting in good or bad stress. Giving an acceptance speech, winning a lottery jackpot, and taking a vacation, are types of good stress. While the time leading up to and during these events can be stressful, such inconvenience is offset by the coveted reward at the end of the stressful event. There is a known start and end to these events, and the end is good.

Under sustained stress we regress to our coping comfort zone. Negative coping methods include over indulging in food, drink, gambling or drug habits, or physically or mentally burning out. Some people revert back to cigarettes, an old friend they seek out in times of stress.

Other coping mechanisms include upping your exercise routine, enrolling in a course, treating yourself by spending money, or distancing yourself from the stressor. The rule of thumb is everything in moderation.

Regressing to over-reliance on our coping mechanisms

While taking courses sounds like a fairly innocent coping mechanism, taking too many courses at once will only add to your stress. If stress triggers your urge to engage in retail therapy, recognizing this tendency enables you to see it coming and avoid shopping until you drop. If you are becoming stressed and have the urge is to run off and start a new life, just knowing this as a sign of stress empowers you to nip it in the bud and avoid potential emotional hangovers for you and your loved ones. Daydreaming or jounalling your way through your coping comfort zone and back again has far less repercussions than actually living it. 

Recognizing regression in others

Once you know your own regressive behaviour and how to manage it, you might begin to spot similar patterns in others. In these cases knowledge is power. You would know they are stressed and can either help them to head it off before they regress or duck out of the way until the source of their stress is alleviated.

How do you behave under stress?

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