Break the Stress Cycle

This week I get to share with you an inspiring interview with Daun Jacobsen. She is one of the most resilient people I know and has come out of adversity with an intense appreciation for life!

When it came time to pick a quote for the beginning of the episode, I remembered weeks later exactly which part I wanted to include without looking at my notes. 

She said, "I felt like I had always walked around with this giant coat on and the buttons were always bulging out. So I'm like bulging out of this coat and then it's all pulling apart and I would try to keep myself within that coat and what would happen is that on occasion when I was in relationships with people or other circumstances, I would pop out and they're like, 'oh my gosh - what's that?'"

As intense women, I think we find ourselves busting out of our coats more often than we’d like.  Then when we bust out, we beat ourselves up and we think, “if only I had more self-control, I wouldn’t keep busting out of my coat!”

But what if, instead of focusing on fitting ourselves into the coat, we focused on finding a coat that fit?

The focus in my work has always been on helping women to self-regulate so that they can feel more in “control,” but I knew that doing this through “willpower” or “force” was not the answer because these things deplete us and leave us less energy to do the things we need to do to take care of ourselves.

Last year I read a book called Self-Reg by Stuart Shanker that helped tie it all together in my mind. In this handy infographic from his website, he outlines the differences between “self-control” and “self-regulation” (or self-reg as he calls it).

Self-control encourages battling “weaknesses” to exercise effortful control.”

Self-regulation, on the other hand, “seeks to reduce the effort required to reach effortful control.”

In other words…

When we focus only on self-control, we try to cram into a coat that doesn’t fit, while when we focus instead on self-regulation, we look for a coat that fits in the first place.

Self-regulation, at its core, is about regulating our energy. Reducing the things in our lives that drain or overstimulate us while adding in more things that energize us. Granted, there will always be stressors that we cannot remove, but if we can minimize the rest and build up our energy, we can handle more when it comes our way.

Shanker describes stress like a spiral, when you experience one stress you can handle it better, but if you are already under stress, your reaction to the next one will be more intense.

This is why, for example, when my body is hormonally stressed once a month, I react more intensely when things don’t go my way. Knowing this, I can step back and observe myself non-judgmentally and even laugh at the absurdity of my response.

Self-control is about being judged, by oneself as much as by others,” while “Self-regulation is about looking non-judgmentally at one’s impulses, worries, and fixations.”

This has always been the goal of my Ignite Your Power program, which I created two years ago, and I am refining it to include insights gained from this book for an upcoming group program. 

Next week I will be starting a free Ignite Your Power Challenge so that we can work together to:

  • Explore tools to shut down your “fight/flight” reflex in order to get your rational brain back online. 
  • Identify 5 types of stressors and their corresponding energizers so that you can start to replace some of the things that are stressing you out with things that replenish you. 
  • Clarify when you should say “no” so you can say “yes” to the things that energize you and/or move you toward a sense of accomplishment.

Remember that in order to make the most impact in your life, it will be infinitely easier to do if you have the right coat!