Beating The High Achiever Stress Cycle
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Stress is a normal healthy and necessary feeling. We all experience it from time to time and we can function at our best when we are under stress. We just need to recognize what we were doing in the cycle where stress is turned into something negative for us.
Many people have learned to manage the stress in their lives. However, for some high-achievers, stress management can feel like another thing to stress about.
Perfectionists and high achievers have high standards. This means they can't settle for anything less than their best. Their brains tell them that doing a little is essentially the same as doing nothing.
They plan to incorporate a variety of activities into their routine, including meditation, exercise, and stress management. This dreamy vision of the future triggers a dopamine release in the brain, making them feel energized as they envision it.
Here comes the stress and overwhelm
When a high-achiever looks at a list of tasks, the stress kicks in. They think things like: “I have too much to do.” or “I can’t get all of this done.” And these thoughts create that feeling of panic, stress, anxiety and overwhelm. In other terms, we’re seeing a fight-flight-freeze response.
Fight, flight and freeze responses vary from person to person. While some people may run screaming from their to-do lists, others may just freeze like statues or start fighting like wild tigers. Instead, stress looks like this:
Fight - Yelling at your kids, yelling at your partner, yelling at the dog, yelling at that stranger on social media
Flight - Busy work, running around frantic, avoiding the task you need to be doing, numbing out with TV or food or alcohol or social media
Freeze - Not knowing where to even start, choosing to sit and do nothing
Get unstuck and manage your stress once and for all
I work with people who want to break free of the cycle of self-defeating habits that keep them from living a more fulfilling life. Here’s how:
Accept that you have a human brain that tells you negative things, even though these thoughts are not accurate. It is a trap that you can avoid. You do not have to listen to it.
Realize that you have control over how you think about yourself and your goals. Do you believe your goal is “hard”? Then working for it will feel hard. How can you change your perception of the difficulty of your goal? Why do you love your goal? Why are you the perfect person to achieve it?
You have to know in your gut, and truly believe, that everything you do is helping you get closer to your goal. If something doesn't go well, don't beat yourself up about it. You are either winning or learning.
Let go of the fantasy that you can do everything on your own. Your brain loves to imagine grand plans, but it will let you down. The right tools can help you make the most of your time and avoid discouragement.
Small actions can build momentum. Your brain may tell you that small changes are not worth your time, but remember that your brain is a liar and is addicted to perfectionist fantasies. Start small and you will build momentum.
If you're ready to stop dreaming about your goals and actually start achieving them, I can help.