I get it, handling stressful situations and dynamics is something you've always felt able to manage- and manage well. Whether it was a group project in school, a last minute change of plans, or calming tensions at home or work- people know they can count on you to show up and handle it.
Yet, what happens when things are happening around us -or to us- and the control is not in our hands?
When we pride ourselves in being able to handle anything by jumping in and taking charge, it can feel really uncomfortable and overwhelming when we face a major change/ life transition that requires us to simply sit back and accept.
Whether it is a relationship shift, loss, health concern, financial strain, or increased demands- change can feel really helpless.
Well, one main reason is because your go-to response of taking action may be calming your nervous system. Taking action is comparable to the "fight" portion of fight/flight/freeze, and responding with action is an effective way for you to close the stress-response loop. When you are feeling activated, you know that addressing the concern head-on will help you work through it and move on faster. So, sitting in the awareness that something is "off" and not having a clear way to address is not only upsetting, but it can leave your nervous system feeling activated and leave you feeling anxious.
But change happens and so do life transitions, how do I manage it better?!
It's important to know that feeling uncomfortable, or even activated, does not mean that you are in danger. It is important to work towards being able to sit with these feelings and acknowledge that your brain is just trying to make sense of what is happening around you, so that it can protect you.
Instead of avoiding ever feeling uncomfortable, it's more meaningful to determine what works best for you when you are feeling this way.
Do you find that your mind is racing and it would be helpful to return focus to the present moment with grounding tools? Or perhaps you feel physically uneasy and it may help to move your body? Maybe there is a space you find calming that you could designate for moments when things feel overwhelming?
Check out these journal prompts to explore:
When I am feeling activated and stressed by things out of my control, what is a phrase or mantra I can repeat to recenter and remind myself that I am ok?
When things feel really hectic and uncontrollable, what routine or structure do I find beneficial that I can focus on to navigate my day?
Who is 1 person I can reach out to if I need to hear reassurance?
What are 3 ways that I can cope and calm on my own? (breathing, movement, relaxation etc.)
How can I incorporate these 3 tools into my day so that my brain trusts them to calm me?
Meredith Waller MSW, LCSW
Based in Boulder, CO and offering online counseling throughout Colorado
-Certified Shame-Informed Treatment Specialist
-Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional