This morning has gone horribly wrong. I woke up late. I shattered a mug. I spilled my coffee on my shirt. I left the house late. And then, on the commute in, I saw someone had hit a raccoon.
It was still in the street writhing in pain. Nothing breaks my heart like seeing an animal suffer. I was late though so I couldn’t stop to do anything or else I risked missing my ferry. I have an early meeting so I really can’t miss the boat.
My normal Wednesday has shifted into a stressful morning of unrest.
The problem with stress is that after awhile, it builds up. What was a little stress is now compounded and all the little things have turned into one big, enormous, terrifying, eat-your-heart-out kind of thing. Or, I think I’m fine, but then my day goes off the rails and I’m at body chemistry changing stress levels suddenly.
When I get to this point in the stress cycle, I lose all ability to function as an adult. I panic, I freak out, I stop being able to have a conversation that doesn’t include whining and negativity. Totally normal adult behavior, right? Um, no.
When I get to this point, I have a list of things I do to change my attitude. They aren’t a prescription that heals all ails and it’s not a perfect system but it’s a good start to get to a reasonable level of human interaction.
Start with breathing.
It’s time to pause the breakdown and take a few deep breaths. This does two things for you:
- It breaks the cycle of your freakout. It is a behavior that is in direct conflict with stress so it helps to pull you out of the wailing and crying. It helps to focus you on a single task that you can achieve.I may not be able to save the raccoon or un-coffee-stain my shirt but I can pause and breathe.
- It literally changes your body chemistry. When you’re stressed, your body dumps cortisol into your system. Cortisol helps your body deal with the “fight or flight” response. Breathing deeply helps to stop the cortisol production and restore your brain to be able to problem solve past fight or flight.
Ask for help.
I really struggle with this one but there are times when you need to realize you can’t do it all on your own. Instead of spending more time picking up the broken glass and freaking out over my coffee stained shirt, I asked the Colbster for help. He was able to manage the mess I had made while I changed my shirt and headed out the door.
Can we pause for applause for the Colbster? He figures out what I need even when I can’t manage coherent words.
Once I got on my ferry, I reached out to a coworker,who was also having a rough morning, and we shared our woes. Only 5 minutes of whining and we had started brainstorming solutions. Sometimes asking someone else for help gives you perspectives you’d never thought about. For example, had I had time to stop, what would I have done with an injured and probably highly dangerous raccoon?
Maybe being a little late saved me from doing something a little stupid in the name of compassion?
Do something pleasurable just for you.
Once I got on my boat and chatted with my coworker I decided that my inbox was too much to handle. I wouldn’t be able to be as effective or efficient with my clients while my emotions were running wild. I was calmer but still not normal.
Instead of trying to power through it, I decided to do something for me. This post is being written as a therapeutic response to my morning. The writing is soothing and the process of writing is helping me to calm down and refocus my energy.
I also get a blog post up so it’s two birds with one stone. Hooray! Positive thinking.
Curb the negative self talk.
Once I’m stressed and frazzled all I can think about is how horrible things are. The sky is falling. The world is ending. The fat lady is singing. But it’s all in my head. Sure a few things went wrong but that doesn’t ruin the day, it just upset those moments. Cutting off the negative self talk is imperative to moving forward.
According to Susan Hyatt, “Positive self talk” is one of those personal development practices that seems too good to be true — or too simple to actually work.” But it does work. It can improve your mood and your performance.
So when you start down the rabbit hole of everything sucks. Cut it off. You’ve got stuff to do.
This includes negative talk to others. I had my morning gripe with a co-worker but that’s it. No one else is going to hear the negative. Moving forward, this morning’s story will be told as a joke or kept to myself.
Have a laugh.
When you really can’t seem to shake the funk, find some laughter. It makes your heart lighter. It’s good for you and it can shake even the nastiest of attitudes. Just the physical act of smiling has a psychological effect on the brain.
Couple laughter with deep breathing and you can literally change your body’s response to your situation. Plus, it feels sooooooooooo good.
Be thankful. Practice gratitude.
It’s impossible to share headspace with gratitude and negativity. If you’re filled with gratitude for those who love you or those who help you, there will be no room for angst. Today, I had two people who cared about me work to help out. My issues – while frustrating – were minor and ultimately inconsequential in my life.
There’s no point in being upset with today because for every negative moment, I can counter with thankfulness. I’m thankful I made my ferry. I’m thankful for having plenty of shirts. I’m thankful for this Wednesday where I got to practice gratitude.
Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope all of your woes turn into happy accidents.