Wildcard Topic: Stress

I’ve been under a good deal of stress at work lately, as you probably already know. This got me thinking about my natural reactions to stress – not really in a “how can I fix this” way, but more in an “observe & report” kind of way, if you know what I mean. Introspection is hard for me to resist (you probably already knew that too).

I have two basic reactions to stress. First, I go into “hyper-focus-fix-it” mode. You know how women are always complaining that they hate talking to men about their problems because men immediately try to “fix” whatever’s wrong? Yeah – I do that too. When confronted with any kind of problem, especially if it’s time-sensitive my brain kicks into high “problem solving gear” and starts clicking through all possible solutions in order to solve the problem as efficiently as possible. I’ve gotten pretty well at hiding this when it applies to other people…I try not to mention all the solutions I see for them, and just nod politely. Somedays I’m better at this than others.

Unfortunately, when it applies to a problem I’m *supposed* to be solving, I go into hyper-focus mode. This is good – it allows me to examine the problem from all sides, see a myriad of possible solutions and start troubleshooting in a logical, organized manner. If only I could apply that to my writing. However…it comes with a nasty side effect.

At my core I am a *very* introverted person. I do my best to supress it most days, because frankly, nearly everything that involves social interaction annoys me in some way or another. That particular part of my personality is not conducive to making/keeping friends or building/keeping professional relationships. It’s not necessarily people themselves that annoy me (though some do, of course), but the actual act of interacting with someone and all the stimuli involved is enough to drive me insane most days (this is why I love the internet – most of the annoying stimuli are null online). I am constantly guarding my reactions to the social stimuli around me, which takes a lot of brain power and focus. The side effect of being hyper-focused on solving one problem is that I’m no longer thinking about my reactions to my environment and the people in it. Sometimes my reactions to the environment end up causing me *more* stress than the original problem…and because I’m aware of that, I end up trying to focus on both. Which always ends in extreme mental exhaustion and a rotten mood.

When that happyens, my second natural reaction to stress kicks in: I shut down. When I get to this point, I simply stop working on whatever the problem was and I’m pretty well paralyzed to do anything until my brain sort of “resets” itself. There’s no use even staring at the problem when this happens…the only “cure” is to spend time by myself, preferably reading a book (frequently more than one) or watching a movie/TV, but writing works too if I have no interruptions or noise. I have to completely walk away from the problem when I get to this point, whether it’s on deadline or not. Thankfully I normally have most problems solved before they get this far, but one at work has reached this point this week. Hopefully having today off will rejuvenate me enough to tackle it again on Friday.

How do you react to stress? And what are some of your favorite ways to relieve stress?

5 comments on “Wildcard Topic: Stress

  1. Heidi Sutherlin

    I can relate to how you deal with stress. I personally get to a point where I also have to just shut down and reset. It takes a bit to get me there, but when I do, I’m usually no good to anyone until I go to bed and sleep it off. Sometimes just a nap will do it, but I have to actually do a “hard reset” and deal with the down time.

    It’s hard to be a people person when you’re not, and I can relate to that, as well. As I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten easier to deal with those that I used to find insipid, and yet the older I get the less I care about what the others think. Luckily, I work from home, so no one to annoy but myself. 🙂 As long as we are aware of our reactions, we can appropriately manage them. I try to remember that it’s okay to be annoyed at someone, but it’s not okay to take my shoe off and hit them with it. It’s the little wins…. 🙂

  2. Carol

    Count me as another one who “shuts down” when the stress gets to be too much. There’s nothing I can do but ride it out when it hits, and it usually hits hard.

    I once had to take a six month leave of absence because of stress. Cognative therapy (and medication) work wonders.

    I’m also very introverted, with far more on-line friends than in-person friends. I get claustrophic in crowds. If I was ever a people person, working 5 years in a call centre cured me of it! 😉

  3. Jamie DeBree

    It sure would be fun to actually do that sometimes though. Not that I wouldn’t feel completely horrible about it afterward. 😉

  4. Jamie DeBree

    I do love online friends. And I hate crowds too, though I can fake it when needed (as I suspect many of us introverts do). Six-months…wow. I’m glad everything worked out okay with that!

    I read for most of the day yesterday (um, the day this was posted. LOL). And had dogs on my lap for a good deal of that. Pets and books are an unstoppable stress-relieving team, in my opinion. 🙂

  5. Sarah

    I’ve worked years to balance my introversion with something akin to a social life, but I can’t handle a large group of people I know. I can vanish in a crowd, let someone else take point, and not worry because I know not all eyes are on me. But in, say, a group of 7-15? THAT’S tough. Stressful.

    And stress kills me. Aside from learning the “omg-it’s-a-delicious-HAMBURGER-must-have-plz” deathwish-inducing dangers, I’ve figured out stress sets off my IBS something fierce. The world can pretty much count me out for about 24 hours AFTER I’ve gotten the anxiety or the panic attack under control. It’s cost me dearly in the past, in college and on the job.

    Fortunately for me, I have my own weapons to combat the more frustrated or disappointed ends of this affliction these days: A wonderful hubby who makes sure I remember to eat and eat right (and who has learned upon pain of death–my own–to never, ever, ever let me eat delicious burgers ever again), two furbabies (kitties) who always know when it’s time to cuddle away Mommy’s nerves, throwing myself into a new shiny story, lavender candles, hot cups of tea and honey, and fresh or rain-tinged air. Angry stress means I resort to tackling video games–dungeon crawlers and the Sims are perfect for venting. 🙂