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?