Logic won’t help when you’re freaking out

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Think about the last time you “I know logically it will be fine, but I’m so stressed.” This is so common and happens to the best of us. There’s a scientific reason this happens and understanding it will help you know how to get unstuck. Listen in this week as we dive into how to feel better when your stressed and anxious. Listen and learn.

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Y’all, how’s it going? Hope things are going well. I am excited. I am recording this before I run to the airport. I’m about to go hit the road, doing some travel, going to a couple of conferences, going to some concerts, gonna go to a family wedding. I’ve got some fun things in store.


I love traveling. I love connecting and being with people. I do, at the same time, don’t get me wrong, I love my routine. It’s nice to be home, sleeping in my bed with all my things. But I love connecting with people. I miss it.


Now that I work for myself, my co-workers are a little bit different, and I don’t meet up with people in person as often. So I’m excited to travel. I’m also throwing around…


I’ve also been working on…


I’ve also been working on putting together an in-person event. I personally feel like we just need connection ever since the pandemic. We’ve been struggling, and don’t get me wrong, I love working from home. I’m not saying I want to go into an office every day. But there’s something about being in the same room with someone and experiencing things that you just cannot get virtually. Scientifically, there’s a lot of things going on in that instance as well. So I’ve been working on putting together kind of a half-day workshop where I want to come get together with people that are interested in growing their mindset, growing their career, and being motivated and being kind, strong leaders, and helping build psychologically safe environments. And I want to teach them some things and do some coaching and have some great discussions. So if you’re interested in that, go to Lindsaylymancoaching.com/event and join the waitlist. I’m super excited. There’s going to be more coming about this, but if you want to be one of the first ones available to kind of get the information on it, um, go sign up for that waitlist. I will also put a link to it in the show notes.


Today’s topic is for you if you have ever caught yourself saying some type of version of “I know logically it’s going to be okay, but I can’t stop worrying about this thing. I’m so frustrated. I’m so stressed.” This is super common and something I see in myself a lot and a lot of folks around us. We understand cognitively our logical brain knows we are safe, we are fine, everything’s gonna be okay. But emotionally, we are not okay. We’re upset, we’re mad, we’re anxious, we’re stressed.


This happens with layoffs, whether you got laid off or you didn’t get laid off. Again, cognitively, you know, “I can go and look for a job” or “I still have a job.” But there’s a lot of emotion that’s happening in that situation. Maybe it’s like a reorg, again, for the ten thousandth time. You know, mentally you’re safe. There’s a lot of feelings that come along with it. Maybe it’s the yearly review process. Oh, I used to dread it. I read the yearly review process. It was so much work. My thoughts and beliefs were, it’s kind of BS, it’s this operational HR bucket we have to tick. There’s a lot of politics involved. I personally don’t really care what other people think about me. I care what my response is to that feedback. But it’s not any of my opinion what other people think about me, they could be right, they could be wrong. I had a lot of feelings about the review process even though logically I knew it was fine, I knew how to do it, I knew how to get through it.


So if you ever catch yourself in this type of a space where you know cognitively you’re okay but emotionally you’re not, then this episode is for you because there is a lot of data and science that explains why this is happening. I want to explain it to you today in very, very simple, rudimentary, layman’s terms here, but I want to help you understand a little bit about what’s going on so that you can understand what are some tools, what are some mechanisms, what are some things you can do when you catch yourself in the space so you don’t just feel stuck and get caught in the cycle of anger and frustration and resentment and anxiety and stress and overwhelm because it’s really easy to get stuck in that space but it’s also really easy to get out and I want to teach you how. Okay, but listen up, come back to me if you only take one thing away from this episode today, I want you to remember this: You cannot solve a biological response cognitively, okay? Remember this, hear me out. When you are having a physical sensation, emotions, feelings, energy, you cannot process that and deal with it and overcome it logically. You can’t think your way out of stress and anxiety and overwhelm, but it’s what all of us try to do. So today, I want to give you some other things to try instead and I want to bring this to life through a few examples. But before I do, I want to talk a little bit about the nervous system. There’s a lot of different things happening in your nervous system, in your body. It’s very complicated, there’s a lot of different parts to it, but I want to talk to you a little bit about the polyvagal theory and the research and work done around this was really pioneered by Stephen Porges. He was the founder of it and he talks a lot about neuroception, okay? Neuroception is how your nervous system is constantly scanning and looking around at everything that’s going on in your radar. It’s picking up on other people’s energy, things around you, and it is purposely looking for safety, danger, and threats, okay? It’s like a radar, it’s out there scanning everything, we’re like, “Safe, not safe, dangerous, right?” It’s constantly doing this, this is neuroception. So that neuroception comes in and your vagal nerve is like the one of the largest nervous system parts of your body that’s like connected all the way from the main parts of it go from your head like down to like your gut, but it’s that neuroception happens and that vagal nerve system transports that information to all different parts of your body. So if your neuroception is that this is dangerous, this is not good, your nervous system kicks that information to your body and tells us we need to get ready to protect ourselves. Our heart rate increases, our temperature increases, our pain tolerance may shift, almost every system in your body kicks into gear to prepare to take care of itself whether it’s feeling danger, a threat, or safety.


Now, in this neuroception, again, it’s very complicated and I’m oversimplifying it, but there’s two main states that your nervous system goes into. And the first state as it’s scanning and if it sees something as dangerous and a threat, your nervous system kicks in to fight or flight. That fight or flight is your sympathetic nervous system on high alert, okay? Your sympathetic nervous system has come online and telling all the different parts of your body, “We are not safe. Gear Up. Get ready. Prepare to go to war, okay? That is when your palms start sweating, your chest gets splotchy, your heart rate increases, your voice may get really breathy or feel like something’s tight. You may feel your stomach get all gurgly and jacked up. Okay, this is your sympathetic nervous system is on high alert and online and operating and telling your body how to function and how to feel.


The other state that works in opposition but in partnership with that sympathetic nervous system is your parasympathetic nervous system. This is what we call the rest and digest. This is when your neuroception is scanning and saying, “We’re safe, we’re good, we don’t need to elevate our temperature, we don’t need to raise our heart rate to get ready for us to run fast and get away, we feel calm, we feel safe.” When you’re in that rest and digest space, your brain is giving you the best ideas, and it’s thinking clearly, and it’s able to articulate itself because it is not hyper-focused on keeping you protected and alive.


Healthy human lives live in both of these states, and we know how to bounce back and forth. It’s like a muscle, though, your nervous system, you’ve got to learn how to exercise it and take care of it because if not, what happens by default, we as humans have a negativity bias, and that fight or flight, that sympathetic nervous system will become super strong, and now things that aren’t really dangerous that we understand logically are safe, we’re okay, emotionally feel terrible because we’re not taking care of our nervous system, we’re not taking care of ourselves to understand how do we bounce back and forth from that sympathetic to parasympathetic and back and forth to live that full human experience. That’s what I want to talk to you a little bit about today is to how to do that in the moment.


Now, it’s really important to know your neuroception, your nervous system response to things that are coming at you, the things that are happening when you walk into a room, the words that are said, the emails that pop up, to things outside of your control, your nervous system response, it’s automatic and instant and not in your control. So I don’t want you to judge yourself and think, “What’s the matter with me? Why am I freaking out? And I know this is not a big deal.” Your nervous system is based on past experiences, generational trauma, different beliefs, different hormones, how you were sleeping, what food is in your body, so many different things. You’ll hear people say, “Like, sometimes it’s just like instant and they get triggered.” It’s because your body, your nervous system is having an automatic response to what it perceives as safety, danger, or threat, okay? That we cannot stop. But what we can control is how we respond to it, how we’re able to calm our nervous system and get back into that rest and digest space.


And then there’s a ton we can actually do to help influence that automatic response. It’s not a quick overnight Band-Aid solution, and I think it’s homework for life. There’s going to be things that just automatically you have an emotional response to, and that’s okay. But when you know how to calm yourself biologically, physically, that is where you’re ultimately in control. We don’t need to control and prevent people from doing things or not doing things. We know how to manage ourselves and keep ourselves in a healthy state so that we can keep showing up and fighting for what we think is right and pushing back and saying, “No, we don’t do that. This isn’t acceptable.” I’m all for it, but we don’t have to control other people in order for us to feel calm, peace, and control.


Okay, so here’s the thing. It’s extremely simple, yet it’s kind of hard to do because, again, there’s some biology. Your brain and your body are purposely looking to protect you. Your brain is always scanning, assuming it’s dangerous and bad. You can always tell people that don’t have a great handle on their mental and emotional and physical neuroception because they’re all over the place, and they are a hot mess. And what happens is, eventually, if you don’t learn how to control this and you get stuck in that cycle of stress and anxiety and overwhelm, your body will shut down. You will start to get sick. You will start to get ulcers. You will start to have heart problems. Your body will literally keep getting louder and louder and louder if you can’t learn to bounce back and forth between your nervous system and have that rest and digest. It starts to physically impact your body.


Long-term solutions for this, I think of it like playing a sport. When you’re on a team, you go to practice, and at practice, you’re running drills and you’re learning the plays and you do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And you’re safe and you’re in practice and nothing bad is happening and it doesn’t matter if you’re scoring or not, you’re just practicing because you want to build that muscle memory. You want it to become intuitive so that when you’re in the game, your body knows naturally how to do what it should be doing and when a play is called, you automatically know where you should go and what you should do. It’s the same thing for our nervous system for learning to bring that parasympathetic, that rest and digest part back online. It’s very similar. There’s a lot of things we need to be doing to practice in a safe place, building that rest and digest, keeping ourselves in that calm, grounded, collective place. I go into so much detail on this and teach you all the steps how to do this in my coaching program, but today, what I want to talk about, what are some things you can do when you’re in that moment, when you’re in the game, and you find yourself in the space where logically you know you’re okay, but emotionally, we’re freaking out?


Okay, so let’s look at a couple of examples. First, public speaking. The latest data I found was saying about 75% of the people have a fear of public speaking. Maybe this is you presenting to some senior leaders in your skip levels or VPs. Maybe you’re applying for a job and you need to go and talk to a group of people you don’t really know. Maybe it’s wanting to speak up in a meeting. Okay, what happens? You walk into the room, you get on the conference call, you’re engaged in the thing, and your neuroception is scanning the room and it does not feel safe. You’re having a biological response that is telling you this is dangerous, this is a threat, this could go bad. What are we doing? So what happens when your nervous system kicks in like that? When that sympathetic nervous system is online, your heart’s going to start racing. If you’re anything like me, when I get really nervous like that, it’s literally kind of hard for me to talk. It’s like I can’t catch my breath, I can’t breathe in and out and talk because my breath is so off because my nervous system is like, “This is dangerous, we don’t actually need to talk, that’s not important right now, we need to just focus on breathing.” When I get really nervous like this, kind of in a public speaking setting, my hands are like freezing cold but super clammy, it’s so gross. I feel like I need to pee really bad, even if my bladder is pretty empty. Sometimes I’ll get gassy, maybe I get weird, like I overly laugh at things or I can’t focus because my brain, when that sympathetic nervous system is driving my body, my brain is working with my nervous system, and it’s not worried about articulating what I’m saying and speaking clearly and slowly, it is all focused on keep your vital organs alive, let’s get ready to run.


So here’s some cognitive solutions I’ve heard, and I’m sure you’ve heard some of these if you struggle to kind of feel calm and confident and to speak up in meetings or any sort of public speaking, it’s things like imagine everyone in the audience is naked, right? You’re trying to distract your brain from like, “We’re feeling dangerous,” to something funny, but your brain isn’t logically going to go there when your body is freaking out. Remember, you cannot solve a biological response cognitively. Your brain can’t fix this, your brain can’t get you out of that nervous feeling. Or you’ll hear people say things like, “You don’t need to be nervous, it’s fine, you totally know this material, you’ve practiced over and over again.” If that worked, I’d be all in, it just doesn’t help you feel better in the moment.


So, to bring that parasympathetic system online, that rest and digest, what you want to do is breathe, really focus on breathing in and out, practice relaxing different muscles in your body, maybe it’s your face, maybe it’s your shoulders, maybe it’s your arms, sit up straight, pay attention to your posture, that’ll help you be able to breathe deeper in your belly and also help bring some awareness to where you’re holding tightness in your body. Again, it’s very simple, it’s not complicated, but in the moment, it’s sometimes hard to do, but doing this is going to kick that rest and digest into gear after a few minutes of like, taking a couple deep breaths, purposely trying to relax different parts of your body, your heart rate is going to calm down, you’re going to get into the groove of things, your body is not going to feel like it’s dangerous and getting attacked. If you’re like me, my hands usually will start to get a little bit warmer once I’ve calmed down, but they stay clammy most of the time because there’s still a tinge part of me that’s like, “This is a little scary, I wonder what they’re thinking of me.” But your body will start to calm down as you’re breathing, as you’re relaxing, as you’re kind of sitting up straight and helping your body feel and process and acknowledge that it feels dangerous, I’m going to breathe into this danger and we are okay, that will start to kick you into that parasympathetic nervous system.


Let’s look at another example. Maybe you’ve started a new job, whether you’re new at it or you got voluntold this is your new job through reorg number 742, and you are supposed to be giving an update at your weekly Business Review. Again, logically, you know you’re fine, you know you’re the new kid, you’re not supposed to know what to do, it’s okay, no one’s going to be really mad, just do your best. But internally, you’re most likely freaking out. This is where we start to feel anxious, we get a stomach ache, and your food probably isn’t sitting well with you. Maybe you’re not sleeping well because you’ve been so worried about this meeting and what you’re going to say and how it’s going to go, maybe you can’t shut your brain off and you can’t stop thinking about it. This is your sympathetic nervous system online telling you, “We don’t feel safe, there’s probably a lot of energy inside of you bouncing around, but it’s not productive, it’s just this crazy, intense, frenetic energy.”


What happens when your sympathetic nervous system is like this? Your brain is really slow to learn and to think of ideas, because your brain is offline, your brain is simply focused on keeping you safe and protected. Here’s some good intention advice people give to us, but you can’t solve a biological response cognitively. They tell you, like, just write it down, think of the questions ahead of time they might have and answer those, is where maybe you’re trying to over-prepare to prepare your way out of this stress and anxiety, but remember, your neurological response is automatic, no amount of preparation is going to prevent it from happening, most likely it’s going to happen. Learning to accept it and acknowledge that makes it so much easier because now we’re not freaking out that we’re freaking out, we’re just like, “Of course, my body is having a natural response here, it makes sense. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m probably going to screw this up, I’m brand new, I hate doing brand new things, I don’t like feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. Of course, this doesn’t feel good, it’s okay.” Again, in that moment, the meeting’s going to come, you’re going to feel all the things, breathe, relax, maybe rub your leg, maybe rub your arm, give yourself some physical sensation awareness to help your body see, “I see you, I feel you, you are welcome here, this feeling, it’s okay.” And then, acutely relax, you’d be amazed when you try this how quickly you can kick yourself into that parasympathetic nervous system again, some of these symptoms may still sit there, but they’re not going to be as intense. You cannot resolve a biological response cognitively.


Let’s look at another example. Maybe you’ve got to deliver the news that you need to push back your launch date, and you know your leadership is not going to take this well. Most likely, when you’re going in to have that one-on-one or that meeting or give them the update, you’re going to be feeling a lot of things. You’re going to be freaking out, your stomach’s going to be a mess, you’re probably going to stumble over your words, your throat’s going to feel tight, you’re going to be clammy, sweaty, your face might be flushed. My chest gets really splotchy when I’m having a highly emotional response, I find that after the fact, I like come crashing down and I need a break or a nap after I’ve had this like highly intensive emotional experience. Cognitive solutions to this are, you know, start with telling your leader what you can do, frame it in a way they’re going to understand, have a backup plan, etc. These things are great, I’m not saying don’t do that, but that’s not going to prevent you from feeling freaked out. Know that you’re going to feel freaked out, you’re going to feel terrible, your stomach’s going to hurt, your body temperature is going to be all screwed up, your heart rate’s going to increase, it’s okay, you’re having a biological response because your nervous system senses this is not safe, this is dangerous, this could be a threat, it’s okay.


Here’s the other thing, your neuroception, it’s going to pick up on their response. So, if that leader is not okay and gets upset, it makes sense that you’re going to feel more anxious as well because your nervous system will perceive that as dangerous. This is why we’re people-pleasers, this is why we try to keep other people happy so that we can feel good because your neuroception is picking up, “This person is not okay,” and that’s not okay. But here’s what you do: remember, you cannot stop your body from having an immediate response, you can control how long it stays in that response. Breathe, relax, stress cannot exist in a relaxed body. Sometimes, I found when this happens, when I have to deliver bad news, I get really hyper-focused, tunnel vision, so what I like to do as well to kick my body into that parasympathetic nervous system is purposely focus on things in the room, other people in the room, things on the table, like purposely draw my attention outside of that tunnel vision and look at things around me, maybe take a drink of water, be you, it’s okay, breathe, relax, it’s like the most important thing you can do to calm that sympathetic nervous system and help that parasympathetic nervous system come online. Stop trying to change your biology with your brain, your brain and your nervous system are working together and they are the best partners ever and we want them to, but you’re only allowed to change your thought, to change your story, to change your belief, to look at a different perspective once you feel physically safe. Your brain is trying to keep you safe, it’s going to be really hard to believe those logical thoughts if your biology is on heightened alert. Stop being mad at it, stop pretending it’s not there, go all in, learn how to breathe and relax through it. The only way to get through this is to feel it, allow it, process it, sit with it, breathe through it, move through it.


Now, there’s so much you can do ahead of time in that practice like I talked about to help so that your immediate response is not such an intense and not so frequent trigger of feeling that sympathetic nervous system come online. And if you feel like you’re getting stuck in these cycles over and over again, let’s jump on the phone and figure out how do we get you out of that. But today, what I want you to notice is be aware of your body when this happens. Let it be, don’t try to logically solve your emotional response to things. Be aware of your emotions, breathe, relax, sit in them. This is how you calm your emotions.


All right, y’all, you’re amazing, you got this, we’ll talk soon. If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week, I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and sign up today. You got this!

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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