Something that I can always relate to with my clients is stress. Stress sucks! And it can take many forms from constant daily stressors to moments of just feeling overwhelmed. Today I was able to notice how my stress affected me while working on my taxes. Taxes suck too! Of course one of my daily stressors is always money… do I have enough for the bills… am I able to spend some on having fun… oh crap, I didn’t pay enough of my quarterly taxes last year! Nevertheless, I sat down this morning to calmly work on my taxes. At least I thought I was calm. I ignored the on edge feeling I was experiencing and the thoughts that I would not have enough money to pay my taxes. Ignoring those feelings and thoughts lead me to sort of be in an auto-pilot mode where I just wanted to be done with what I was doing. Unfortunately, me being on auto-pilot steered me to make a key mistake on my taxes that I did not realize until after I pushed the button to e-file them. I immediately started berating myself and calling myself an idiot. I then called my husband who sort of tried to give me an encouraging statement, but my angry self was not having any of it. My brain just went on with the negative thoughts which kept me from actually taking a moment to figure out what to do. I finally did catch myself spiraling into self-loathing and I took a moment to process what I was feeling. This process included taking into account what my thoughts were, what I was feeling, and how my body was physically reacting. I decided I needed help. It took a call to the tax filing company I used to learn that I can amend my tax return… it’s a bit of a process and my brain wanted to start yelling at me again for making this already frustrating task even harder, but I gave myself a couple of compassionate statements instead. I told myself it’s OK and that I am allowed to be frustrated by this situation. By giving myself a bit of a break, I was able to calm those negative thoughts. It also helped to engage in a self-soothing activity (something to help me relax a bit) after the call to the tax company. That activity ended up being watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix!
Stress happens to everyone. But not everyone reacts the same to it. It has taken me a long time to learn that I make my stress much worse by the negative things I tell myself. Of course I still have those thoughts most of the time I encounter a stressful moment, but I am much better at catching myself doing it and then shifting my thoughts to being more compassionate towards myself. I tell my clients that it takes practice… and it really does! The trick is to not ignore those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts when they occur. Take some time to be curious about them (kind of like a detective) and figure out what is really going on emotionally, mentally, and physically. If you have a better understanding of what you are experiencing in the moment, you will make better decisions. And when you know you need some help, ask for it! Stress can definitely suck, but it sucks a lot more when we punish ourselves for experiencing it.