2 Common Responses to Crisis and Stress

2 Common Responses to Crisis and Stress

One thing that has become really clear this year is how we respond to stress, uncertainty and overwhelm. Research suggests that most of us fall into one of two camps; over-functioning or under functioning. It also shows that we may over-function in one area of our life and under-function in another.

In the early days of the pandemic I experienced a lot of anxiety, often finding myself waking up in the middle of the night to process a litany of “what if’s” and trying to desperately cling to anything I could control. I revised our budget, stocked up on extra groceries and cleaned the house way more than usual. I also looked at ways to keep my business going and to give back to the community. I bought additional home workout equipment and did my best to keep up some sort of routine.

This is what is called “over functioning.” Typically when a crisis occurs or a difficult situation arises we fall into one of two categories; over-functioner or under-functioner. Someone who under-functions may have found themselves sleeping more, watching hours of Netflix, avoiding conversations with others or falling out of their healthy routines.

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We often see this happen in the workplace if there is a major project deadline or a company wide shift in operations. Some people will stand up and take on more responsibility than they should while others might appear to be disengaged or not pulling their weight. These are studied responses to stress and have a lot more to do with how our nervous system is responding.

What I’ve noticed for myself this year is that I have over-functioned too long and have now moved into a period of under functioning. Everything feels exhausting and even doing the basics feels like too much. Some people have used the term “COVID fatigue,” which I appreciate and connect with.

Which ever way you respond, I think this is a year to notice, reflect and see what truly serves you at the end of the day. I have been challenging myself to be more thoughtful of what I take on and pay attention to my energy output. I want to give myself permission to not try to save the world and to take things at a more reasonable pace. Also – naps have been critical in regaining energy and allowing myself to take a healthy break from everything.

What works for me will not necessarily work for you – but hopefully this gets you thinking about how you respond to stress and uncertainty, exploring in more depth what worked (or didn’t work) for you. If you’d like to learn more about nervous system responses and how to get back to a more calm and clear place please reach out.