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In times of stress don’t do anything stupid. Instead, pause and do something special for yourself

Crisis are often the result of over-reacting and overthinking

By Andrea ZanonPublished 5 months ago 4 min read

I learned from personal experience that overreacting in times of hardship can cause more pain than gain. Over the last 20 years I experienced highly stressful situations and I will never forget a few of these, as I rushed decisions resulting in heavier losses for me and for the people that loved me. Had I only paused, analyzed the events with patience, I would have saved money and protected my mental strength. Instead, my impulse and instincts caused and accelerated a crisis that would have not started had I not done anything.

Shit happens: When something bad happens or we think something bad may happen, we should take time to clear our minds and get more information and consider all viable options. Rushed decisions cause more damage and can slow down the recovery process. Distressed situations, and even crisis is often the result of lacking information and overthinking or misreading a situation that is outside of our control. To prevent this from happening avoid negative self-talk at all costs and silence the noise around you. Also practice positive self-talk particularly when we don’t know what is going on around us.

A personal self-created crisis: Just an example. About eight years ago, I was the head of a Development Bank Unit and I kept getting mixed messages from my boss. I jumped to conclusions and panicked. I thought I was getting fired as she acted weird and did not respond to the multiple emails and messages. Wrong! She was having a bad month, and coincidentally she was afraid of being replaced. Additionally, she was not emotionally competent and did not know how to read my needs. Think of how many times we jump to conclusions without having all the data. It is mostly just in our head. Also, think of how many times we create artificial stressful deadlines that lead to more hardship.

The point I am trying to hammer here is that crises happen only in our mind, or at worse they are very mild manifestations of life’s events. And “shit does happen” and you should get used to it. And when we do accept that life is always going to suck a little bit, as beautifully expressed by Mark Manson in his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, we are going to be able to better tolerate pain and become unstoppable. To quote Mark beautiful book….” when you stop giving a f*ck about pain, you become unstoppable”.

Deadlines are artificial

Are deadlines real? Some of the crises and stressful situations happen because we create unnecessary and unrealistic deadlines for ourselves. I believe that most deadlines are artificial and self-imposed. And they rarely lead to any of the consequences they threaten to cause. And we should all learn to prioritize decision making to focus on the smart actions that can yield the highest returns. I love the insights provided by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte over 200 years ago. When dealing with emergency and urgent communication, he instructed his top generals to “leave all urgent letters unopened for three weeks and don’t bring them to me” and then noticed with satisfaction how a large part of the urgent correspondence had thus disposed of itself and no longer required an answer or an action. In other words, most urgent matters, took care of themselves without needing escalation and alert.

As explained in the Harvard Business Review which is labeled the deadline paradox, “is that our most meaningful tasks are less likely to have deadlines than tasks that are relatively unimportant”. To counter this, Invest in your wellbeing once a week. Yes, take some time just for yourself, go to a sauna, shop for something special and don’t delay important personal care upgrades. Try having a designated time weekly to make sure you can spend quality time investing in yourself. No matter what that means.

Two lessons: First, as the billionaire investor Warren Buffett said, “you can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow”. In a stressful situation, the smartest thing you can do is hold your tongue. If you lose your temper, you’re more likely to do something stupid that may backfire later. Think of Will Smith at the Oscars a couple of years ago. And once you have sent an email or sent a tweet (especially in today’s technological world, where anything you say can go viral), you can’t take it back, and secondly, don’t forget that it is not our stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it. Learn to be patient as most things will fix themselves if we stay calm and focus on what we have absolute control over.

Take action: When you are stressed out or anxious, your brain is telling you that you are in danger and that you need to do something about it right away to keep yourself safe. Learn to stop reacting to your anxiety, as you will automatically train your brain that the situation is not that urgent. And you move on and eliminate a risk that may not even exist.

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About the Creator

Andrea Zanon

Andrea Zanon is an international sustainable development and empowerment specialist who has dedicated his life to reducing poverty, promoting sustainability and empowering ambitious people

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