Stress and your imagined narrative

Stress and your imagined narrative

Stress is part of life. Historically, it is a natural response of your body to deal with dangerous situation to ensure survival. If you translate this into our times and life in the city, we call those situations rather difficult or important. They matter to us. Be it an meeting with a client or negotiating a deal, meeting a deadline or addressing an uncomfortable issue with a colleague.

You know when this feeling of stress creeps up and starts. You are familiar with how it manifests in your workday: a tight stomach and the need to eat a lot or not at all, not tanking breaks and eventual exhaustion, chronic tensions in neck and shoulders. You know your stress response intimately. (If you want to make it practical: note down for yourself how you feel stress in your body).

Stress is a physiological response that is historically there to support us. If you are like most of the people I have met so far, you have learned to think there is something wrong with you if you feel stressed. That you should be able to deal with everything smoothly and there is possibly something wrong with you because everyone else seems to manage.

This is quite bizarre if you think stress is there to help you get through difficult situations and by believing stress is not good for you or that you should not feel stressed, you start fighting the stress. You end up having two things to handle: the actual work situation and the stress.

So what if you could learn to tap into the energy resources that are accumulated in your tensions and to use them for you and not against you?

Today I want you to think about the narrative you tell yourself and believe. Stopping to follow this train of thought when it invites you to get on board, can be one way to regain energy for dealing with the stressful situation at hand.

The brain uses more energy than any other human organ, in total up to ’20 percent of the body’s total haul.’ By elaborating, nurturing and confirming your narrative, you are wasting energy you could be investing in getting the actual work done, solve a problem or enjoy the free time you gain by not engaging in your narrative. It’s a choice.

5 narratives people tell themselves when they get stressed

  1. Blaming someone else.
    Why did I (again) end up in this situation? We often don’t say it out loud, but like to have someone to blame. The drivers who caused the traffic jam are at fault for me coming late to the meeting. The partner not listening to me, …
  2. Blaming something else
    When you can’t attribute the stress to someone that fact that we end up in another stressful situation is caused by the circumstances. E.g. a tight deadline, all the other things on your to-do list, the traffic jam. Maybe you’re just too polite to name a person, and you instead decide to find your misery is caused by the circumstances.
  3. Dissecting the past.
    You start recalling other similar past experiences where you ended up in the same situation. In this case your thoughts go in the general direction of ‘It’s alway happening to me’ ‘I am this way because…’ You generalize and get drawn into the past and forget that the turnout can be different if you stopped knowing.
  4. Being busy with what could go wrong.
    You are stressed and your self-talk confirms that there is a reason to be stressed as there are so many things that could go wrong.
  5. Talking yourself calm into believing it will be OK.
    You believe you shouldn’t be stressed, so you try to calm yourself and And often it turns out OK or less dramatic than you anticipated. But to be honest, you don’t know what will happen. You only know, by doing the work.

No matter if the tenor of your narrative is negative or positive (mostly it’s negative), it is never well invested energy. It’s not fresh thinking. It will not get you where you want. So…

Stop your narrative to get the real work done

Identify your favorite narrative and answer the following questions:

What of the above is your primary narrative?
What will you do the next time you notice you believe your narrative?

Share with us what and how you plan to stop yourself from falling into it in the comment box below.

(More on WHY we prefer our narrative over doing the real work will be published in the next article.)