When I'm faced with a stressful situation, my body often goes into fight or flight mode. No matter whether it's a tight deadline at work, a minor argument with a friend or a serious family dilemma, my body reacts in the same way. My heart starts to race, my hands shake and my adrenaline spikes. It is at times like that that I like to ask myself:
- Am I being attacked by a saber tooth tiger?
100% of the time, my answer is always no. This makes me realize that things could certainly be worse and that my life is not in fact in danger, even though it may seem like it. If I was in fact being attacked by an extinct predator, then my fight or flight instinct would be justified.
- Where can I hide?
Is there somewhere I can go to relax, take some deep breaths and provide some rationale to the situation. I like to take a walk in nature, have a nice cup of tea or meditate for five minutes.
- Why is this happening to me?
What have I done to get myself into this situation, what decisions did I make that got me to where I am now?
- Seriously, why is this happening to me?
Really, what have I done to put myself here and more importantly:
- How can I keep it from happening again?
What lessons have I learned from this situation and is there something I can do to prevent this stress from rearing its ugly head again. Perhaps there is nothing that I can do, but it is important to ask the question in order to stop repeating unhelpful behaviors.
- How old do I feel?
What is an age appropriate position response to your current situation? If I'm having an argument with my mother, for example, I typically feel about 5 years old and may need a good hug from a friend or a cuddle from my dog.
- How is NOW different from THEN?
Why am I reacting so strongly to this situation, what is making me feel so anxious about it as compared to when I was calm just a few moments ago? Am I afraid of someone's response?
- Is there pie?
Let's be honest, pie always makes everything better.
What is the absolute lease I can do to improve this situation?
When something is so stressful, breaking it up into bite size, easy to digest pieces makes things seem manageable.
- Will this matter when I'm dead?
Usually, especially when it is work related, the answer is no. It always help me to put perspective on the situation. If it won't matter then, why should it make me so upset now?
I find that no matter what the situation, asking myself these questions helps to talk me off the ledge and allows me to see the problem for what it really is, just an obstacle in my daily life. Of course, if it was an actual tiger, than that would really just be one question: how fast can I run?