Updated: Apr 8
How to actually navigate when in the stress mess
Is your first response in a crisis/stressful situation, mostly: “Ok, what do I DO now to handle and get out of this situation?” And end up just ‘doing’ things one after the other? Probably only to feel even more lost and confused.
Imagine you are in the ocean and feel as if you are drowning. For most of us, the most ready picture that comes in this scenario is throwing our hands and legs wildly in the waters, grappling around, and doing everything to stay afloat. Hoping to reach the shore, or that some boat comes, and picks us up.
Well, what if I told you, when starting to sense the sinking or drowning feeling, to check the water levels you are in, and if there is shallow water around. To check that if you just stand in the waters, are you above the water level, or to gauge the distance to the shore.
Many of us, well, almost none of us would think of that. To sense, feel, think and then ‘do’.
Our 1st instinct is of ‘Doing’.
Well, that’s what we learn. It is a part of our instincts.
Our brain, and nervous system forget that it is a crisis, yes but not a danger to our life!
Because, ‘doing’ (escaping, or facing the crisis) is what we’ve had to do to preserve ourselves in the wild. As we’ve evolved, we feel the same levels of threat and stress, in our sophisticated human built world. And, so it can very well take us to the reflex of ‘Doing’.
I understand, it may be a little difficult to comprehend, but hang on. We shall explore how to shift from the ‘doing’ to alternate ways of coping, as we go ahead in the blog. These alternate ways of coping might yield better results than what ‘doing’ has been bringing to us.
When going through our rough phase in life, or faced by a stressful situation, we only become aware of it, and start ‘doing’ when it is in the red zone of the thermometer. We don’t seem to pay attention to the situation or crisis, when in the green, or yellow/orange zone.
Just like, when we only become alert when we realize we are drowning, and not when we move through the rising water levels.
Now, this period of not being able to be aware until you are already in the red zone, or always feeling that you are in the red zone can be due to really difficult times in your past, or other possible reasons, which cannot be covered in this article. However, please feel safe enough to reach out to Becoming Conscious Beings or your trusted therapists to understand and process it.
When we are in the Red zone, the part of our brain responsible for preserving us from threat becomes highly activated. Thereby, bringing all of our resources to focus on somehow mitigating the situation at hand. Its focus becomes on mitigating, not resolving or coping.
I am not saying it’s easy, natural, or that you will have the resources in all situations to notice the levels of stress rising. And that you will be able to sense, think and then respond. But, with learning, processing and practicing in a space safe enough for your Being, you can facilitate to repattern your outlook and change your reactions to response in stress. Thereby, actually letting you resolve and truly come out of the stress situation. That allows you to attend to the stress in your body, think and choose your actions and way of dealing with the situation. Rather than doing things one after the other, and feel like having come out of a hurricane/tornado. With the situation having been temporarily/partially resolved.
I understand, it can be difficult to follow. However, if you have come this far in the blog, it must be resonating with you somewhere, where you want to understand and work upon it. In that case, I would recommend using this blog as a gateway for understanding, and taking it up with a counselor/therapist to understand and process it further. In that case you can contact me (@ becoming conscious beings) or your trusted professional.
Having that cleared, here are some ways to shift from ‘Doing’ to alternate, probably efficient ways of managing situations and stress:
Attend to your body senses, and restlessness
Observe that when you feel super stressed, and getting into the ‘doing’ mode, your body and its senses slightly shift. This shift differs in every person. It can be a change in your breathing, pacing or sinking heartbeat, or restlessness. Restlessness can be seen as fidgeting of your fingers, unable to sit or stand still, keeping yourself occupied and doing something with your body and hands, etc. It can only be sensed in feeling a pit in your stomach, which can make you feel like eating something, feel a little faintish, not wanting to eat at all. Some other senses could be feeling dryness in the mouth and throat, feeling dehydrated, etc.
In those cases, physically moving your spine a little back, being aware of your breath, and leaving a long sigh out. Probably ground yourself with some element of the earth around, like having water, holding something cold or warm, having contact of your feet with the ground, etc.
If possible, notice the intensity of the stress on stress thermometer
Imagine the stress thermometer illustrated above. Notice in which zone are you in, and the marker. Focus on bringing it down just a notch down; say if you feel you are a 8, which is the red zone, slowly coming down to 7-6/5, and then use your ‘doing’ coping skills. So if you are in the red zone, first bring it to the lower marker of that zone, and then move to the other zone.
Gauge if it needs immediate action or have a window to choose the POA
When you feel you have come a notch down, notice if it is a situation or crisis needing to fix with a band aid right away, and solve it later; or can I take a moment to step out till the cloud over my thinking is removed, and then act on the solution. The stepping out can be for just a minute or less also. The latter will allow me to directly solve and move on from the matter, and me not having to come back to attend after a first aid was done.
Seek to include other person(s) to discuss or be with you through it
Scientifically as well as humans having someone trusted and safe with us in the situation or crisis helps us to firstly not remain in the red zone, come out of it quickly, and also when I think out loud to the other person, the cloud over my thinking declutters faster.
While these are cues, and quick tips, explaining/expanding on these concepts is beyond the scope of a blog, and not ethical in my view. To ensure it serves and facilitates your efficacy, rather than bring harm, I would encourage you once again, to take it up with a mental health professional.
~ Purvi Balasaria,