Have you ever been bebopping along in your life; everything is just going great; you’re thrilled; then something happens, and it’s like you’re in a tailspin? Suddenly it’s really hard to recover. Your life is hijacked. You aren’t happy about it, but you just can’t seem to get out of it. Well, you were just slammed right into the middle of what I call your stress defense. Today I’m going to talk to you about what that is and how to come out of it.
You might have heard in the last podcast, episode 41, where I talk about your stress themes, that a lot of our stress is inherited. We collect it when we’re young by watching the people around us and how they react to things. What happens is that not only what stresses us out often gets programmed into our mind at a very young age but how we react to that stress. If you think about it for a minute as I’m going through this, you might find that you resemble the way your mom, or your dad, or a grandparent, or whoever it was that raised you handled stress. For instance, some people may go into a funk, where they get very depressed and they become masochistic. They begin beating themselves up—what a loser they are and how horrible things are. Some stress will hit them in their life. They feel overwhelmed. They can’t get through it. They move themselves into a depressed state. They become the Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. “Oh, the world is over. It’s all ending. I can’t make it through my day.”
Other people become more sadistic. They want to torture others for them being tortured. They have a tendency to get meaner and meaner and meaner to the people around them, the more the stress and pressure get on them. For some people, it may be that they get into Miss or Mr. Nice Guy, Nice Girl, where they try to start pleasing everybody around them. They try to start making it better. Or maybe they use their sense of humor. Another person becomes more funny. I know that for me, personally, I work harder. When I get under stress and pressure, I have a tendency to get more focused, more intense. I remember one time I was going through a very stressful situation. My friend brought over a bottle of wine to come and be with me under this pressure that I was under. They were so shocked, because I was like, “No, I’m not drinking. That’s the last thing I need. Everything is going awry, and I need to stay completely clear-headed, and focused, and work harder, and figure this thing out.” I have a tendency to not sleep when I’m under pressure like that.
You have your own stress defenses. Here’s the thing. It’s not whether or not this stress defense is a good thing or a bad thing. The thing that’s most important to know is that it’s not authentically who you are in that moment. You’re playing a character. You’re playing a role. The worst thing about it is that these roles that we’ve created didn’t work for our parents, and they aren’t working for us. Sometimes they look like self-sabotage in moments where you have somebody who does something, and the stress defense is to go, “F you,” and walk out on a job or walk out of a relationship, or maybe you get hard on your kids and you don’t mean to. It’s not what you would really want. Or maybe you isolate yourself and completely back away, and you’re not there for your children, or you don’t show up for work. Or maybe you start saying yes to all kinds of things that you really shouldn’t be saying yes to that overpacks your plate and has you not be able to take care of yourself, and you’re not able to hold your boundaries. Whatever it is, the thing is, it won’t feel good. It’ll be miserable. It takes away. It zaps your joy. It takes away your happiness. The big thing is that it annoys the people who love you, because they know it’s not authentically you. It annoys the people that you love the most in your life, because they can see that you’re in this stress defense.
The key is this. Your internal guidance system will let you know when what you’re thinking is not true or not going to happen. We talked about that in the last one. If you don’t know what your internal guidance system is, go to zeninamoment.com. There’s a free video…You don’t even have to give me your email…on the home page, zeninamoment.com. Watch it so you can feel your IGS and know what I’m talking about when I say opening and closing. When you get under stress, which are things that cause worry, anxiety, fear, overwhelm, procrastination, and you have your themes that get enacted, you very often will go into a defensive posture to protect yourself from the stress. That defensive posture is a habitual response that is not clear and present to what is actually needed in that moment from you now. Just like we did a pattern interrupt on last week’s episode of your stress themes, you want to do a pattern interrupt on this.
Now, here’s the key. When you go into this stress defense, you may not really realize that you’re doing it. The reason why I want you to pay attention to what your stress themes are and your stress defenses are is because it’s the place where we go unconscious in our lives. You actually have to uncover them and say, “This is what I do when I’m under pressure. This is what I do when my feelings are hurt. This is what I do when I am feeling out of control or like I have no power.” Very often, that’s what will happen. It can be either a pendulum swing of overdoing it or underdoing it. Neither of those over or unders is necessarily what is being asked for in the moment. I personally am the person who jettisons—jettison the relationship, jettison the job. I can tell you right now, I have walked out on a lot of money at one job because I got in a fight with the CEO. I really should not have quit, but that was my power play. “Well, oh, yeah? You don’t want to play my way? I’m out of here. I’ll show you.” He was like, “Great. I’m keeping all your commissions. That just does me good. Go ahead, leave.” It was the worst thing I could have done, and yet it was my stress defense running the show. I was closed. My internal guidance system was shut down at the thought of quitting the job, but I did it anyways because that’s my stress defense.
Now, if you think about it in your life, you have some stress defenses, I’m guaranteeing you, that have created shambles in your life, too—hurt relationships, hurt people around you, had you not show up when you should have. This is super important. Here’s the cool thing. If I could go back and do it today, I would have stayed, kept my commissions, and then quit, because it was not a good environment for me. The truth of the matter is I would have stopped in the moment and not gone into my stress defense, because I know that that’s what I do, and I know that that thing that I do doesn’t really work. I use this as an alarm bell for me when I get to this place of “I’m going to quit on you; I’ll show you; I’ll take my toys and go home; then you’ll be really sorry.” I use that as a mechanism to try to regain my power and it doesn’t work. When it happens, I stop and I go, “Ooh, I’m about to hit that trip wire of a stress defense that doesn’t work for me.”
The other thing is that sometimes our stress defenses can go on for a very long time. I have clients who I coach and work with who go into a funk, a depression, and withdraw from the world, and can barely function as a response using their stress defense, and it destroys their life. They stop showing up. Years, for some of them, have been wasted of their entire life not showing up, not participating, hiding under the covers, hiding behind closed doors. These stress defenses are not only incredibly painful, but they are taking away your joy for life. What you do is you pay attention, and you focus on what does my mind and my emotional body do when I’m under pressure, when I’m feeling these things? What is the trigger? Just start there. Then go back. What you do is you look at the thoughts that are creating the stress…There’s the stress defense, but then there’s the stress itself…and what is triggering it is not true or not going to happen. The thing that you think is either not true…that person is not disrespecting you; they do love you; you’re not being passed over for promotions at work; your kids do respect you. Whatever it is that’s going on that’s creating this depressive experience, that’s triggering the stress defense, that is not true. You can go and work on the core…with all the tools that I’ve been teaching you in these podcasts…the core of the thoughts, and reprogram your mind to what is true for you in the moment, and not move into the stress defense which is just a big waste of time. Use the stress defense as an alarm bell of ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding—something is about to go wrong in my life, and I need to pay close attention here. My little internal being is freaking out and going to go somewhere I don’t want it to go.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope this is helpful. I love bringing you these podcasts. Please share. If you are listening to this on iTunes, it helps so much to give me a review and five stars. Just even five stars for this podcast allows it to move up in the ranks. It’s so important. I can’t even express to you just that simple five stars as often as possible. Same thing on SoundCloud. When people type in stress, anxiety, worry, fear, meditation, presence, mindfulness, they get me if you give us a good rating. Then share with your friends and family so they can get access to this and have more happiness and joy in their life, too. I am you sending you love and blessings until we meet again.