ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Christine McKee
Christine McKee Christine McKee, a registered psychologist, is director of BE Institute, a psychology consulting and training organisation in Brisbane, Australia. She uses a combination of eastern philosophy and modern psychological techniques with her clients in the corporate, private practice, mining, government, and not-for-profit arenas. The 4-phase BE by Design process results in personal empowerment for individuals, maximising potential of leaders and their teams to achieve business excellence and conscious parenting (pre and post conception). Christine is published author of BE by Design: How I BE Is Up to Me, an empowering “owner’s manual for the brain” which will guide you to understand your most precious asset and how, through simple and practical strategies, you can be the best you can BE. Christine also writes regularly for several online journals.

Christine McKee has written 14 article(s) for us.

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Dealing with Life Stress and Pressure? Moving from Unhealthy to Healthy Mindsets

November 19, 2012 | Christine McKee

By taking time out you'll feel refreshed and be in control of how you respond to stressful situations.
By taking time out you'll feel refreshed and be in control of how you respond to stressful situations.

Often when we are under the pump, stressed, out-of-balance or juggling too many things we will experience negative emotion of some kind (e.g. frustration, worry, anxiousness, sadness, anger). When we find ourselves feeling like this, if we are not fully aware in the moment, we will act out of habit (things we learnt when we were kids).

There are two typical default responses and reactions we have as humans that are unhealthy for us. I’ll share these with you first so you recognise when you might be responding in this way. This awareness will enable you to become more conscious and then you can choose a third, healthy option for dealing with challenging situations.

The first unhelpful response to stress is Fight versus Flight, which is:

  • A primitive response to stress and times when our needs are not being met
  • Expressed as anger, tension, frustration, hopelessness, helplessness, and passiveness. It may be displayed by being confrontational or by avoiding conflict and pretending nothing is wrong
  • Unhealthy for our bodies, because it:
    • Increases blood pressure and heart stress
    • Increases stress hormones that lead to anxiety, addictions, insomnia
    • Increases blood sugar which may lead to weight issues and diabetes
    • Decreases the immune system leading to illnesses
    • Is only designed to be used by humans when our lives are genuinely at risk and we need to either stay and fight or run away to safety

Take a moment now to do a self-check on the times, situations and in what interactions you are likely to respond with either fight or flight.

The second unhelpful response to stress is to be Reactive. This is displayed by child-like behaviours that typically get us short-term wins while damaging relationships and credibility in the long term. Examples include using sarcasm, yelling, demanding, shutting down, withdrawing, ignoring, being passive, raising past arguments, being overly nice, being the victim where the world owes you something, or not sharing important information with others.

We tend to choose this when:

  • Our ego is under threat and our self-image is at risk of being damaged
  • Our Manual of Life has a page or chapter in it that says these tactics get you what you want (in the short term at least, because in the long term, relationships will be damaged by these child-like responses)
  •  We are defending our self-importance or self-pity

Okay, your turn, have a smile to yourself as you reflect on which of these tactics you have drawn on in the past. Notice to yourself if you are more or less likely to use them in certain types of situations or with certain types of people.

The fabulous news is there is a third, helpful option where you choose your response in the moment, fresh, whenever you notice stress or pressure has entered your life. It is called the in-the-moment response, and it:

  • Is where you choose to observe your reactions before you respond
  • Allows you the space to choose healthy responses to every situation – stepping away from habits that don’t lead to awesome results

It is so simple. Just ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is honestly happening right now?
  2. How do I choose to respond to this situation so that I remain in the moment and respect myself and others?
  3. What did I learn about myself?

In what situations will you choose the in-the-moment response over old reactive responses?