Have you ever experienced the “red car syndrome”? You know, when you learn a new word, or are introduced to a new dog breed, or are exposed to the music of an artist you’ve not yet discovered, and then the word, doggie or music magically pops up everywhere you go? It’s akin to buying a new car and then suddenly noticing how many others just like it are on the road. This manifestation actually has a proper name: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
While we’re on that topic, if the concept of Cadence has been popping into your consciousness these days, it may be due to my weaving of the notion into my weekly messages. It’s interesting how this intentional word of the year, continues to grow and gain dimension— kind of like pasta.
And even so, I took myself by surprise last week as a new perspective regarding cadence revealed itself in my morning pages. The reason that cadence is so attractive to me is that the opposite of cadence is chaos! For me, as chaos increases, my stress level follows suit.
And this is a timely exploration. I’m embarrassed to admit that over the past 5 weeks, I’ve failed miserably as a DRIVEN Professional. With full access to tools, techniques, exercises, and habits I help others instill (and that I practice), since April 23rd my emotions have hijacked the ship that is my life, forcing it into some hostile territory.
I was feeling a steady stream of stress. And despite my dedication to meditation, exercise, clean eating, and perspective at different points of my journey through elevated stress, I caught a glimpse of ugly nonetheless! It was uncomfortable for me, and more importantly, for Michael. So, I now cloak myself in the growth mindset and (after some heartfelt apologies) I get to put that ickiness to good use from this day forward.
Setting the Scene
Late last year, we decided to put our beloved home on the market. Although this sanctuary has been integral to my well-being, it no longer serves me as it once did. Our decision brought on a rainbow of emotions: fear, sorrow, excitement, delight, wonder, frustration, uncertainty. Talk about emotional ambiguity! But the show must go on, and our house hunt began.
Fast forward to 6 months and a couple of homebuying heartbreaks later, we stepped into what I knew from the entryway was my new home. Part of me was Zen, and part of me was panicked. Yikes! The disbelief that this was actually happening, that I would be moving from my beloved corner of the world! And then the terror set in: What happens if this house falls through, too? What if our current home doesn’t sell? Plus, the familiar aroma of, “What’s going to go wrong this time?”
Sadly, once that scent is released, it’s like red meat for the amygdala. What will the inspections reveal? What flaws will still be buried in this new home? Being a fiscally cautious person, I have to continue to ‘prove’ to myself that making this move is financially responsible. There’s also some agitation as I worry about the synchronicity of the closings.
Despite leveraging tools to see clearly, in hindsight, I can see stress’ effect on me, and due to proximity, on others. What’s more, now I can justify why my self-defined three dimensions of stress all ratcheted up.
Enter: Stress Style #1: The Undercurrent of Stress
Overnight, an air of fear became my mind’s soundtrack, like the music in a horror film. I was waking up in the middle of the night worried about failing septic fields and resorting to pod storage— NOT actual threats, mind you! Nevertheless, this sense of ‘tension’ contains all of the bells and whistles from a brain science perspective. This type of stress had the feeling of perpetual trepidation, like the fear of encountering a snake during a hike, after I almost stepped on one a few hikes back. (Can you hear the soundtrack to Jaws right about now?)
Mix in Stress Style #2: Continuing to Stomach the Stress
Countless aspects of the homebuying process were piling on top of the ‘everyday’ stuff that I can usually manage. The stress felt like a backpack full of bricks. As each brick was added, it would take time for me to acclimate. I’d have to once again find my balance and center.
These worries weighed especially heavily before we went into contract on our future home. When an inspector had to postpone, my irritated inner voice was screaming, “WHY can’t people just keep their calendar commitments!?!?”
Okay, Deborah. BREATHE. Life often gets in the way.
And life keeps marching forward, as well. Word then came through that the seller’s realtor was doing her job by continuing to show the house to other buyers. YIKES! Breathe…
You see, this had been the context leading up to the first heartbreak. And while vulnerability can be seen as a sign of strength, as much as I tried, for a weekend (that seemed like a month) I felt my heart was defenseless.
Add On Stress Style #3: The Amygdala Hijack
And then comes the scariest dimension of stress— the hijack. This is when something blindsides you after you’ve already been tightly wound.
Have you ever considered after the fact that maybe your response was disproportionate to the offense? Well, Michael did something that in normal circumstances would NOT have been a big deal. But when he called right before a realtor web conference to report that he was running late, I FLIPPED MY LID!
His words of truth later that day hit me with another type of emotional ambiguity: “In 15 years, this is the first time I’ve been late.” It was true.
My experiences have demonstrated that, no matter how much one embodies stress management tools, mere mortals do fall victim to stress. My work this month is to continue to explore how stress can be linked to values and other ways to recognize stress, so we can better manage both the hiccups and hurricanes of life.
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