How Does a Stress Management Specialist Deal With Her Sky Falling Down?
How do you use stress management when it’s the furthest thing from your mind?
Recently I have had an experience that rocked my world. It was one of those things that you don’t see coming, that you have no contingency for and that challenges every aspect of your life – business, family, friendships, finances, future plans and professional identity.
After 20 odd years of successfully teaching others how to manage trauma and other major stressful events, I was suddenly on the other end of the experience in a really big way.
How did I cope?
Initially with great difficulty because chaos is the primary dominating experience.
In my case chaos, disbelief and confusion dominated the first few hours, and then I went into an emergency coping mode.
This is a safety mechanism through which we isolate down to specifically what needs to happen in any given moment. There is often no plan and nothing beyond the immediate. It is definitely an example of being in the moment (but not in a healthy way). The urgent tasks get done then you move to the next job and so on. Shielding, reassuring and supporting my staff, my clients, and my family became my absolute focus and priority.
While I could feel myself struggling to keep going. I was determined to minimise the impact on those around me. Understandable and common.
Can I say this protective response was incorrect? I don’t think so.
Did it help me? It certainly gave me a focus and allowed time for events to unfold. I am not sure I could have done anything else. However, while I accomplished making others feel secure, I also diminished their understanding of the impact I was experiencing.
Too often while we look like we are coping, we are actually drowning, after the first couple of days, I began to notice the wheels starting to fall off.
This was evident in the following ways:
1.Being unable to talk about the event
2. Not wanting updates or opinions from others including support
3. Wanting very badly to shut down, no people, no noise, no light
4. Stopping normal activities including those that might actually support me
5. Loss of appetite
7. Volatile emotions
8. Being triggered by very small things
9. I was observing myself starting to spiral and became increasingly concerned. So, what did I do?
I interviewed myself with one of my own intake forms as if I was a client. What this revealed was (drum roll please) I needed help. As a self-sufficient person and a self-proclaimed stress management specialist this was hard to accept. We business owners are a robust bunch, and I have built my business, and reputation on having the tools and solutions to get people through these types of experiences.
I had always prided myself on how well I managed all aspects of my life. In this case ‘I’ was just not enough and I was too far ‘in’ the experience to reach perspective; a salient and valuable lesson.
As much as I berated myself (and I did) the smarter part of me realised I needed a dose of my own stress management medicine. How many times had I reassured clients that getting support was the right thing to do and that we do not have all the resources we need all the time, especially when something we have never experienced before happens.
Seeking advice and bringing my life back to a core structure and fundamentals were the first intervention I knew I could do to take responsibility. This helped me to feel slightly more in control and rebuilt my shaky confidence. For me these basics included:
- No social media, radio or TV
- Using my own tools
- Seeing a professional
- Having only positive conversations occur around my family and team but at the same time being honest
- Focusing on some exciting events, I had come up (admittedly this was extremely difficult, to begin with).
- Maximum hydration
- Clean food
- Early bedtime
- Doing nothing and allowing it to be ‘ok.’
- Letting others know I needed their support
- Focusing on the amazing support, I received from my community
You might wonder why it is I decided to share this. A core philosophy in my business has always been to support people to get support. How can I authentically encourage others to get help from me if I am not honest that I also need it and then get it. There needs to be integrity around what we ‘do’ in our business and ‘who’ we are.
As Small Business owners, we carry more of a personal burden when things go wrong. We are at the coal face, we are visible. For the most part, we do this willingly.
I am incredibly grateful to have the awareness and resources I did as the wheels started to fall off, that’s the business I am in so you would hope so. I am lucky to have a wellness process in place in my everyday life so that I could return to the tried and true and have it support me.
Self-care and support are not things we should ‘schedule in’ to ensure they occur. They should be as fundamental as brushing our teeth and feeding ourselves. I encourage you to get a structure in place. Things you know to work for you. People you know who will support you no matter what.
I hope you never experience this level of stress in your life, but you can be more ready than you are right now. Don’t wait. Do it now.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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