This is the last in the series of posts on emotional triggers that cause emotional breakdowns. Hurray!!! Here are the 3 emotional triggers we have not yet discussed:
Illness & Fatigue
Our physical work environment and specific situations can leave us vulnerable to emotional breakdowns. This should not be surprising. Imagine how you feel when you are in environments that are hot, cold, noisy, cluttered, filthy, or isolated. If we are not physically comfortable, we may be vulnerable to an emotional breakdown. There may be specific situations that also leave us emotionally vulnerable. For example, I feel vulnerable when I am in a large crowd of people.
I actually find the winters in Chicago to cause me to feel vulnerable to a breakdown. Chicago in the winter is like Gotham City; days often seem cold, gray and so dreary that they suck the life out of you. It can really make you appreciate the few sunny days we experience during the winter!
Illness and fatigue can also leave us vulnerable to an emotional breakdown. Like our environment, they can leave us feeling less than our best. When we don't feel well or are extremely tired, we let down our guard and become vulnerable to emotional breakdown. An extreme example of of this would be individuals experiencing some type of chronic pain. It is hard to show grace and not react emotionally when you are experiencing chronic back pain. In a similar way, fatigue can leave us vulnerable to a breakdown. I know that if I don’t get enough sleep and let myself get run down, I risk making dumb emotional mistakes.
What can we do to reduce our vulnerability to these emotional triggers? Here are some specific ways to reduce the impact of these triggers:
- Evaluate your environment. Are you as comfortable as you can make yourself? What needs to change to make you comfortable? If you are isolated, what can you do to feel more connected? I sometimes chose to work in public, at a Starbucks, rather than stay at home in isolation. Is your work area continually cold? Get a small space heater. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Otherwise, it will be hard to care for others. Taking care of yourself includes eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Stay Healthy. Keep yourself healthy to prevent illness and fatigue. Take basic preventive care to avoid getting sick by washing your hands frequently and avoiding direct contact with those who are sick. And if you do get sick, don’t try to be a hero. Some people think it is important to come to work even when they are sick. Illness can cripple an entire team. Trust me, even if you believe you are indispensable, the team is better off without you while you recuperate. Set a good example for everyone else by staying home and getting better.
- Sharpen the Saw. Stephen Covey talks about the importance of sharpening the saw in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In essence he is talking about self renewal. This means taking your vacations as well as investing in training and development. Are you too busy on your project for vacation or training? That is a common refrain and one that is easily debunked. First of all, no one person is that critical to a project. Second, there will never be a perfect time on your project to take vacation or go to training. The busier your project, the more you will benefit from downtime away from it.
- Avoid long work weeks. We all have to stretch once in a while and we all have a different level of stamina. However, if you are working more than 45, 50 or 60 hours consecutively, you are likely setting yourself up for fatigue and illness.
- Get Support. When you are feeling sick, tired, or worn out, seek support. This could be from your manager, a trusted co-worker, friends, spouse, or mentor. My coach Rich says that the bigger your goals in life, the more you need support.
As with all the emotional triggers, the key is to understand ourselves through self-awareness so that we can manage around our emotional vulnerabilities.