Did you know there are different styles of stress? Do you know which one you exhibit when times get tough? Do you know why it matters so much?
I’ve been working with women in early motherhood for over 10 years. And I’ve been lucky enough to work with many of them for a long time – sometimes through several pregnancies, postpartums, and into the years that follow.
These are inherently stressful transitions, even if they’re also happy. Every mom I’ve met feels super-stressed at some point. And when this happens, there are two main “stress styles” that I see:
The Oversharer AND The Self-Isolator.
And guess what? Moms who know their stress style tend to move through stressful events much more smoothly with healthier habits. And those moms who don’t know their style? They tend to judge themselves, spin (or become paralyzed) with anxiety, and stay stuck for longer periods of time.
You may intuitively know whether you’re more of an Oversharer when you’re stressed, or more of a Self-Isolator, just by the titles. But if you’re not sure which stress style fits you, ask yourself these questions:
When you feel excessively worried, overwhelmed, or stressed out…
- Do you feel the emotional floodgates swing open and start asking others for advice? Do you scroll through your phone to find someone to call, text, email, or otherwise connect with? Talk your partner’s ears off with all of your various options? Write a million journal entries? Feel like you’re running around in circles talking with others about every detail of every decision? Post mercilessly to social? You’re in Oversharer land.
- Do you shut down the sharing and put up the proverbial walls? Go “offline” emotionally? Keep your interactions cool and transactional, even with your loved ones? Stop searching for answers, and numb yourself instead? Do you cancel plans and stay in (or if you do go out, look for an exit quickly thereafter)? Stop posting on social (even if you still check out your feed)? Feel the urge to shut off your phone (even if you still feel lonely when you don’t hear from anyone)? Classic Self-Isolating stuff.
Oversharers want to reach out and touch someone, and don’t feel settled until they do.
They have strong communication ties to their communities, and put it all out there, calling on girlfriends, guy friends, partners, family, colleagues, or even their kids. They feel an almost irristible urge to work things out through talking and, as a result, they often have good soundboards to brainstorm with and shoulders to cry on. They may feel emotionally naked, needy, or unable to hear their inner voices. They also tend to become frustrated if they don’t get the “right” answer or enough time to talk.
Self-Isolators tend to push everyone away but, underneath it all, they still want deep connection and intimacy in order to process their experiences.
They may say they’re just giving themselves a rest, but have a tendency to fall into a self-isolation spiral and suffer from loneliness and lack of perspective. They tend to feel inauthentic and alone, because their outsides don’t match their insides (i.e. cognitive dissonance).
Neither stress style is right or wrong, better or worse. They’re just different, and require unique self-care approaches.
If you’re an Oversharer, you can take care of yourself by:
- recognizing your tendency to spin around seeking “the answers” from others
- doing solo activities that you make you feel really good
- carefully selecting a few people in your close circle of supporters to share yourself with. The good friend who always lets you have a 10-minute monologue, or the coach who guides you in a few helpful directions, are your true rockstars.
If you’re a Self-Isolator, you can take care of yourself by:
- identifying your “retreat response”
- reminding yourself that it shows up when you’re feeling a lot of pressure, overwhelm, or other fear
- going against the grain and connecting with someone else – even if it’s just an honest text to someone you trust – and telling them what you’re going through. Gentle best friends and therapists are your North Stars.
The more stress you have, the more likely you are to fall down into one of these extremes. But don’t worry… there is good news!
Once you know your stress style and you take care of yourself accordingly, you spend more time in the middle ground, feeling balanced, even when you’re dealing with a lot… aka the craziness of motherhood.
With eyes-open practice, you can get better at sitting with the chaos and share your life with loved ones, without either taking all of their air time or giving anyone the silent treatment.
So, what’s your stress style? How can you take care of yourself this week, knowing that bit about who you are?
P.S. Another great read on dealing with stress right here.