“Oh Sh*t! What was I thinking?”

by CrisMarie on March 8, 2014

Reprinted from an article in 406 Woman Magazine, Feb 2014 pg 68Cover-woman-Feb-2014

I had been enjoying a significantly long period of time at home, about three weeks. Without the push and constant pressure of keeping up with emails, working with clients, marketing our corporate team offsite events or couples’ workshops, my focus turned to the luxury of going to Yuletide and Oliver shows and parties, making Christmas dinner and candy, watching movies and walking in the snow. Ahhh—It was like the world had stopped spinning, and it was safe enough to slow down and turn inward. It was lovely.

That is until 10 PM Thursday, January 2, when my safe-bubble popped. At that moment, the red alert inside of me hit, and I crashed into the reality of all I had to do in January. I had five new presentations to prepare, a Couples’ Workshop to lead in Canada and another to market here in Whitefish planned for April, a Seattle wedding to attend, plus this article to write.

“Oh Sh*t!!!!!”

So you get the idea – an “Oh Sh*t!” Moment is when a situation overwhelms your current ability to respond. As in my case, it was too many new things to do and a lack of confidence in my ability to get them done. But Oh Sh*t! Moments can take many forms. Here are some examples:

• Your spouse and you want very different things, like wanting to start a family or not.

• You shift careers only to find out you hate your new one and you can’t go back.

• You are diagnosed with a disease you did not see coming.

• Your business is taking off and you have no way to meet the demand.

HERE IS HOW SMACKING INTO AN “OH SH*T!’ MOMENT CAN GO:

You are at your annual doctors appointment, and she informs you that you are pregnant. You stop breathing. Your mind freezes, unable to compute what she is saying. You start to stutter, unable to find your words. Your heart is racing “OMG, I can’t be pregnant. I just got my dream job! OMG, we just put all our money in this new condo on the mountain. There’s no room for a baby! I can’t have a baby. I’ll lose my job. We’ll fight about where to live. He’ll leave me and I’ll have nothing!”discouraged-writer

Finally, the doctor shakes your shoulder and says, “Did you hear me?”

The decent into your own demise took a millisecond.

Scientists that study the brain know that the part of our brains that wrap around the brain stem is called the reptilian brain. Its main purpose is to insure our physical survival. The reptilian brain is constantly scanning for danger and broadcasting concerns, what Martha Beck, author of Steering By Starlight, calls “lack and attack” concerns. Can’t you hear its voice now: “You don’t have time to be reading this article. You’d better get to work!”

The reptilian brain is convinced we are not going to have enough: food, money, acceptance in the tribe, you name it. Furthermore, even if we think we do have enough now, it is only a matter of time before someone or something attacks and takes it away.

Now, add an emotionally stressful event and the reptilian brain takes over, even starts controlling body functions. Our breathing gets shallow, our vision tunnels to focus on what we think will cause us the most harm. No wonder we so quickly envision the worst-case scenario, feeling beaten up from the inside out. In those moments it’s as if our brains can only see the danger. It can feel like it’s only a matter of time before our precarious house of cards comes tumbling down.

That’s when maybe a well-meaning friend steps up, offering support, “Don’t worry. It will all be okay.”

Your trusty reptilian brain bites back, “Oh, Really? If you know so much, tell me how, how is this going to be okay, because right now it feels like I am going to die!”

The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen at this point. You are creating your own suffering by imagining and feeling the worse case scenario. Again, the reptilian part of your brain is doing this to protect you. However, you don’t want this part of the brain to be driving you.

DEALING WITH AN “OH SH*T!” MOMENT

 So how do you cope with those personally overwhelming Oh Sh*t! Moments? Here are some ideas.

1. FIND A SAFE PLACE AND LET YOUR ENERGY MOVE. Cry or rant or freak out – what ever your body needs to allow the energy to flow. Some strategies that clients have tried:

  • Just let yourself collapse and cry on the floor. This sounds dramatic, but remember doing that as a child when you were upset? Oh… no? Well, okay, maybe that was just me.
  • Take a brisk walk, swinging those arms, saying and feeling whatever you need to say about the situation out-loud as you go. Afraid people will think you’re crazy? Just put in some ear buds and people will assume you are upset with someone on the phone.
  • Put some music on that fits your mood and dance around the house as wildly as your body wants to, allow any emotions, like anger and sadness, to have their space. You may want to make sure those curtains are closed first!

This step doesn’t have to take long, just lean into it fully, anywhere from three minutes (the average length of a song) to twenty minutes (enough time for a brisk walk), and I bet your body will feel differently.

2. SHOW UP AND GIVE YOURSELF SOME COMPASSION. You are feeling this way for a good reason. Don’t compound the problem by making yourself wrong for how you feel. Here’s how:

  • It may seem like everything inside of you is freaking out, but try isolating it, cutting it down to size by saying three magic words, “Something in me is freaking out about: this pregnancy, this relationship impasse, this health issue or work situation.”
  • Now imagine you could turn towards that part and be a caring friend, “No wonder you are so upset. This is really scary.”

3. SEPARATE FACTS FROM FICTION. This is where you engage the rest of your brain and separate what is actually happening from what you are imagining as the worse case scenario.

When you are convinced something is a fact, follow Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, and ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Can I absolutely know that it is true?

Fact: You are pregnant. Fiction: You will lose your job, husband and condo.

We actually don’t know at this point what will happen. You are inventing it. (FYI – It is not legal to lose your job from being pregnant. As for the condo, babies have actually survived, even thrived, in small quarters. Your husband? Well, imagine that he loves you bunches.)

4. BREAK IT DOWN TO BABY STEPS, FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. Taking one small step will help you figure out what fits, what you can do, and how you really feel with more information. Try this:

  • Have a conversation with your husband.
  • Consider the idea of starting a family.
  • Talk to your boss or friends that have had babies and still work.

IN SUMMARY

Sometimes we just want life to slow down so that we can catch up and feel safe. Living life fully means things can happen and sometimes things happen fast. As long as we can find ways to deal with reptilian reactions and maybe even give that part of ourselves some appreciation for all its awesome survival efforts, all will be well.

Life isn’t about getting rid of things or parts of ourselves, it’s about experiencing everything, and by learning and growing – even through the Oh Sh*t! Moments. Frankly, those often become the highlight or blooper reel of our lives!

 

 

 

 

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