Just one look at Barbara and I knew something was wrong. She entered my office and flopped down onto the chair like a limp ragdoll. She looked drained and then let out a screeching howl.
It almost pierced my eardrum. Quickly, Barbara realized where she was and lowered her voice to a whisper.
Within seconds her cheeks were drenched with tears. Barbar shook and quivered as she tried to talk. All the work pressure she was under has finally bubbled to the surface, but the office was not the place for an eruption. She tried to calm herself, but couldn’t.
“Laura, my supervisor, is conducting a campaign of terror against me,” said Barbara.
“She just told me I must meet with her tomorrow morning at 9 am, for an unannounced case review.”
I just listened and did my best to be supportive. I knew that Barbara’s supervisor was a loudmouth bully.
On the other hand, Barbara was a quiet, mild-mannered, soft-spoken person with a good heart. She didn’t like confrontation and kept her emotions bottled up inside.
Barbara told me, this case review would be the third in the last three weeks — all of which crushed Barbara’s self-esteem
“Laura treats me like a piece of crap. She yells at me and finds fault with everything I do.”
Barbara’s makeup was starting fail; she aged dramatically in the last three minutes.
“It seems like every day I have to deal with an emergency. That and having evil Laura breathing down my back. I don’t know how much I can take. They are trying to fire me.”
A problem shared is half solved
Barbara needed to vent. Sometimes just talking about it helps.
“I’ve been living off of coffee and carbs. I haven’t slept in days,” said Barbara.
I was concerned and shared my thoughts on the matter.
Biggest mistakes made when facing a stress storm
Barbara had coped with stressful events in the past; most were temporary, and solved themselves. This time, the pressure was worse, the strong winds of adversity almost blew her away.
The natural inclination, when undergoing higher than normal stress, is to reach for a quick fix
Although it might work for the short term, in the long run, it will cause more harm than good.
Here are the five big mistakes:
- Drink more coffee
- Eat more sugary foods (cakes, cookies, and donuts)
- Consume more alcohol (an extra glass of wine at dinner)
- Get less sleep
- Not exercising
Besides the obvious problem of having to deal with a stress storm, Barbara’s choices made it worse.
Instead of overindulging in quick pick-me-up foods and drinks, as well as engaging in negative behaviors (which is a sign of being stressed out), Barbara should do more healthy things.
Stress is unavoidable…be stress resilient
Typically, you are not even aware of stress until it gets quite severe. In other words, you ignore it until it overcomes you.
The best way to stay healthy and stress resilient is by exposing yourself to proven wellness plans.
Barbara thinks that being stressed out means she is somehow weak — it is an admission that she cannot cope. Because of this, Barbara was reluctant to embrace stress management.
She thinks she should be able to tough it out.
But it is the opposite…
By practicing some form of stress management on a daily basis, Barbara would’ve known how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and could’ve prevented a meltdown.
Find calm, even in the most trying of circumstances
Just like a professional boxer goes to the gym every day to prevent getting knocked out, Barbara should practice wellness daily. She would be more prepared to endure the inevitable stress storm.
My advice to Barbara is to change her lifestyle
You will be surprised how much benefits there are to:
- Mindful breathing
- Cardio exercises
- Quiet time
- Calming herbs
- Healthy and nutritional foods
- 7 hours of sleep per night
- Keep a journal
- Talking with an anger coach
Unhealthy lifestyle habits are part of the problem
You should include a whole-body approach to your wellness program to addresses the chronic stress you experience. Add to that unhealthy lifestyle habits, which most likely made it worse.
In fact, it could be the cause of your weakened stress response in the first place.
Stress affects everyone
Instead of putting pressure on yourself, recognize that a lot of people struggle with stress. It’s a part of our culture now.
Don’t wait for a stressful event to happen — with our pressure-filled lifestyles; one is almost guaranteed to occur.
The key is to build both an internal and external environment that will allow you to be resilient
So as a matter of habit, you should:
- Regularly breathe slowly
- Set limits on your alcohol, caffeine and sugar consumption.
If you do just one thing today, find the time to meditate. Find the time to rest your body and unwind your mind. If you need help, consult a life coach who specializes in stress.
It’s good for you and those around you.