Today, let’s talk about you.
Specifically, let’s talk about when things get stressful and anxious.
When the boss is screaming in one ear and your kid is screaming in the other. When you’re rushing to an appointment and you get a flat tire.
When you’re bored and desperate to procrastinate. When your relative calls you up and asks for money again, or when your mom gets sick.
In these moments, what do you do?
How do you work?
Let’s pop the hood and find out.
Do you over-or under-function?
There are two primary responses to stress: over-functioning, and under-functioning.
Over-functioning: All systems go!
People who tend to over-function are the folks you want driving your ambulance or in charge of your country.
When crisis calls, they swing into action.
They are focused, strong, organized, decisive. They always come through.
They live by action plans, to-do lists, spreadsheets, and calendars. They may be described as “supermom” or “having it all”.
No matter what happens, no matter how bad they feel, regardless of whether the world is crumbling around them, over-functioners get out of bed in the morning and march bravely onward.
Under-functioning: Checking out
People who tend to under-function are the folks who crawl under the desk, or who are somehow able to say “no big deal”, when disaster strikes.
They collapse inwards. Get overwhelmed.
Under-functioners lose things, get lost and befuddled. They’re the spouses who can never seem to find anything, the friends who are always late, or the kids who are always losing their mittens.
When stress happens, under-functioners retreat.
There’s no wrong or right way to be. Each style of coping has advantages and disadvantages.
And some people go back and forth from over- to under-functioning.
The over-under dance
Our behavior doesn’t happen in isolation. We do a little two-step dance with the friends and family around us.
When they move, we move. When they step forward, we step back.
If they push, we might retreat. If we barrel forward, they might withdraw. If they over-function, we under-function, and vice versa.
Around and around we go.
Over-functioners tend to pair up with under-functioners. An under-functioning parent may have an over-functioning child who tries to compensate.
What does all of this have to do with getting lean?
For one thing, our individual coping styles can shape our response to nutrition and exercise.
And much of this behavior is learned… which means we can change it if we want to.
Finally, we don’t just behave in isolation — but in response to people around us.
Whatever your coping style, it’s probably shaped and reinforced by your relationships.
No style of coping or life management is inherently “wrong” or “right”.
Each has costs and benefits.
What is important is:
- to know how YOU respond to stress and anxiety, and
- to understand the costs and benefits of your unique coping style.
When life gets challenging, do you…
And most importantly, when stress hits, what happens to your exercise and nutrition habits?
- Do you eat more or less? (It may depend on the stressor — mild stress, like boredom, may stimulate appetite, while intense stress, like a family death, may decrease it.)
- Do you try to control your intake more and more? Or do you find you lose control? (Or both, one after the other?)
- Do you push harder and harder at exercise, or let exercise fall by the wayside?
As you do your mind-body scans over the next two weeks, take note of whether you’re showing over- or under-functioning tendencies. Ask yourself:
- What is GOOD about my coping style? How does it benefit and serve me?
- What is BAD about my coping style? What does it cost me?
- How does my coping style affect my nutrition and exercise habits?
In other words, when it comes to your coping style: How’s that workin’ for ya?
Once you’ve figured out your coping style and its effects on your nutrition and exercise, you can make positive changes.
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