When Going Through Hell … Don’t Stop!
June 27, 2007
When going through particularly stressful times … don’t abandon your organization strategy, because you feel you need to switch to fire fight mode.
When you’re going through a particularly busy or stressful time at work, it’s not the time to abandon your system of organization. But guess what? People do it all the time because that’s the way we humans are wired to handle stress, we panic!
If you’ve ever taken a college psychology class, no doubt you’ve heard of the “fight or flight” response. It’s that involuntary response we all have to stressful situations. It’s the brains way of telling you to ignore everything else and focus on whatever is causing the stress.
That’s great if a lion’s chasing you, but not so great when you’re just overloaded at work. The problem is that once the stress response switch is flipped, it tells you to stop “thinking” rationally and start “reacting” emotionally.
That’s because the response is induced in a very emotional part of the brain that is quite separate from the cognitive “thinking” part of the brain. It’s unfortunate that when we get stressed out, logic can be one of the first things to go, but it is.
So what’s the lesson here? Simply being aware of the fight or flight response is a great first step. You may not be able to remove whatever is causing the stress, but you can develop copping strategies to get you through.
The next time you catch yourself ‘reacting’, it’s time to pause to take a few deep breaths (stress causes faster shallow breathing). If you’re going through a very stressful period (end of quarter, product launch, family issues) you should try getting more exercise. Exercise is a great way to de-stress.
Next, take a look at your physical environment. Cluttered desks can actually cause ‘proximity tension’ without you realizing it. You’d be amazed how much progress you can make in just fifteen to twenty minutes of cleaning. Plus you’ll probably feel tons better.
Finally, clear your head by writing tasks down. Mentally juggling tasks is never a good idea, but it’s even worse when you’re stressed out. Write things down. Capture all your tasks in a single task list. You might get a little overwhelmed by how long the list gets, but it’s still better then letting all those tasks bounce around in your already stressed head.
So the next time you find yourself going through hell … don’t stop! Decide that hell is no fun, and keep moving. Take some deep breaths. Work out if you can. Tidy up your desk, and clear your mind by writing things down.