In our coaching workshops, people often ask, "How do you know if you are under stress?" my first question back to them is "Are you in a washing machine, a movie or are you drowning?"
When we worry, work too hard, have lots going on, feel overwhelmed, and have difficulty relaxing, we go into fight-or-flight. Some of you might be thinking right now, "Why do 'they' keep talking about this damn fight-or-flight stuff". Because fight-or-flight is ingrained into our brains and is responsible for so many things that are making us unwell.
Fight-or-flight produces numerous physiological and psychological deleterious impact in our body and brain - shallow breathing, heart pumping, chemicals dumped into our stomachs, adrenaline and cortisol into our blood, our thoughts become negative and defensive - the list goes on.
When overwhelmed, our brains race flat out at high speed, and won't stop. Brains, just like your body, cannot stay in a race forever. Firstly, our brains will try to fix things by working as hard as they can, that's why they are running so fast. Next, they will try to take control of you, through what you see and do. Finally, they will break down and possibly look for an ultimate solution.
When initially overwhelmed, it often feels like we are in a washing machine, going back and forth really fast. There are clothes all around us, some with a sharp zip that scratches us every so often. Because there is lots of water (things going on) around us we start gasping for air. As we move faster and faster we put more clothes into the machine trying to slow it down, to get everything 'washed' so that we can rest at the end of the wash cycle.
But, the cycle continues because there are always lots of clothes to wash.
Our brain, recognising that we are in this never-ending cycle, will trick us into thinking everything is not real. We are now in a movie, walking through life without being noticed. It's as though you can reach out to others but they won't hear you or see you. No one seems to notice that you are there, they don't even look at you. You could shout out but they won't hear you, they won't come, in fact they won't even turn their heads to look at you.
That's what happens in a movie, everything is surreal.
This movie, your movie, sometimes doesn't end well. It has one of those endings where you are left feeling hollow, disappointed, cheated. We now have feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. We are all-consumed with our thoughts, negative thoughts, thoughts that we begin to believe are real. Logic, what's that? Sleep, what's that? Talking, ha, that stopped a long time ago.
This movie has a tragic ending, if we allow it to.
We are now drowning and there is no one around to help us. Or so we think. After all, we did learn to swim didn't we? We've been there before, we don't need help, we can help ourselves, eventually we will pop out of this wave if we keep swimming, won't we? After all, you don't want to seem like an idiot, a failure, a loser. Besides, I don't want to burden others, they have things going on themselves.
You will eventually pop out of the sea if you hold on to what has kept you going, the very things that you love about life. The hook, that's what crisis negotiators call it, the few things that we look forward to each day. The things that give us hope, the things that we come back to every now and then.
You see, the heart can rule the brain if you allow it to. So what do you love?