Sneaky red flags at work you need to start paying attention to

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When you car needs an oil change, more gas, or service on it’s engine, there’s a little warning light the comes on. The same thing is happening to each of us all day at work. There are red flag warning signs happening all the time telling us we’re about to get really stressed out, frustrated, or worried. Learning to notice and understand these red flags can help you stop the stress before it gets to overwhelming. Listen and learn how.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this.

Hey y’all, how are you doing? I just got back from an amazing trip to Seattle. The weather was beautiful. I love it. I lived there for about 12 years, so it’s always fun to go back and visit friends and enjoy delicious food, especially when it is gorgeous and sunny.

I hope you guys are having a good one too. So, I’ve been coaching people for going on five years now. I’ve coached thousands and thousands and thousands of hours, and there’s something that keeps tugging at me that I’ve been really trying to study and find better tools and ways to really help people because I notice we all kind of struggle with… There’s a lot of things that we know we should do, but we don’t. And there’s sometimes like the little things of not checking your email at night or not having your phone be the first thing you check in the morning, not eating food that makes you feel terrible, saying no, not caring as much at work, and not worrying so much about things, letting it go, and not obsessing about it. Like, we know what we should be doing, but a lot of times it just feels hard, not to do the thing or to actually go and do the thing.

And so, I’ve been taking a course that I have been nerding out on, and I’m so obsessed with it. It’s an advanced training course on nervous system resilience. And I am so excited by what I’m learning because it’s helping so many things click and making so much sense. And I’m learning and creating more tools to help my clients with this, and I want to share a lot of this with you here on the podcast. I’m also going to be updating my coaching program with a lot of what I’m learning. So, if you are any of my current or past clients, keep an eye on your email. I’m going to be sending you all the updated training material at no additional cost. I just think it’s so important for all of us to have.

But, in essence, your nervous system is like a muscle. It has memory and it needs to be taken care of. When we don’t take care of our nervous system, the negativity bias that our brain has is just kind of running everything on autopilot. But it senses everything is dangerous because your brain sees there’s smoke, and it tells you the house is on fire. It doesn’t logically think, ‘Well, is the house on fire? Did we just burn toast?’ You want this negativity bias that helps us as humans. It’s kept us alive. But if you’re not managing your nervous system, everything will seem really doom and gloom and overwhelming. We want to purposely build that nervous system muscle, but we need to help build it in a way where it also learns how to feel safe and how to feel good along the way.

If you find yourself getting, you know, ‘quote unquote,’ triggered by a lot of things, this is a sign you’re not managing your mental and your emotional health. I see this a lot when we get an email from someone we don’t like or skip level or our manager, and all of a sudden, like, it’s instant dread and freak out. We get a stomachache. We start to freak out initially. 

This happens when you may get like a quick meeting from your manager that’s going to happen in 30 minutes. That’s like a 15-minute touch base, right? Like, this is very triggering to us. Your nervous system has memory and is like, ‘Oh no, something terrible is going to happen.’ I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong. I’m not saying that we even want to get rid of that part. But when you understand how to manage your nervous system, just like you understand how to take care of your body, how do you take care of your brain? When you learn how to take care of your nervous system, that’s how you’re going to build resilience to all the craziness in life that happens. I’m not going to go into a lot of the details on it today, but I want to talk a little bit about what are some things we can do so that we don’t get ourselves stuck in that space where we are so stressed, we are so anxious, we are so overwhelmed that we have panic attacks, that we have sleeping issues, that we have digestive issues, that we can’t even function, that we can’t shut our brain off of work. And ultimately, at some point, we come crashing down to completely burned out, to some serious health implications, to just needing to walk away. If that’s you, it is okay. I think most of us have been there more often than we would like. But what I want to talk about today are some of the things we can do in small, simple ways daily to not get to that such intense, stressful place. These are not quick fixes. These are not going to solve your problem overnight. But I think of it a lot as death by paper cuts. What are those things in small, daily ways that are contributing and making us feel that extreme stress and overwhelm? I want to talk about what are those warning signs? What are those red flags? Now, you may be in a really high-stress, anxious state. That is okay. I’ve been there. I still am there a lot of days. You may need to take some time off. You may need to take a day off, go get the pedicure, get the massage, go for the hike, do the house project, enjoy some time away, and come back to work. But if you find when you do and you come back, you very quickly get back into that intense craziness, I want you to listen up today because you cannot keep up at that pace, and you shouldn’t have to take a break in order to feel like you can manage and do your job. What I want to help you understand is what are some of those small, simple growth by Band-Aid ways that we can figure out and not live in that death by paper cut space? Because the truth is, you’re not in that highly extreme stress anxiety place 24 hours a day. It may feel like it because most of the time you may be there, but there are moments when you’re asleep that you’re not feeling that, even if you’re not getting the most peaceful, restful sleep. You’re not in such a heightened state. Your body, your nervous system, your emotions, your mental health has literally calmed down a little bit in that sleep state. There may be moments in the morning when you’re still waking up and haven’t started thinking about the craziness of the day, that you feel that calm, that safety, that quietness, that lower energy place. Again, there are moments and glimpses of it.

What I want to help us know is: What are those signs that we’re leaving that place and going into that high-intense stress and overwhelm? Because daily, I think most of us have a moment in the morning where we’re like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ And at some point, we shift over to like, ‘I’m just so tired. I’m just so wrong. I’m so stressed. I can’t do this.’ I think of it a lot like a car. When you think of a car, there’s a million different warning lights that come on, telling you you need to pay attention and do something or it’s going to go wrong. Maybe it’s the service engine light, maybe it’s the gas light. It’s telling you, ‘Hey, take care of me, or else there might be a bigger implication.’ Right now, there’s the service required soon light that comes on every time I turn on my car, and I just keep pushing the button and ignoring it because I know it means I need to go get my oil changed. My car still works. I haven’t scheduled one and done an oil change. I can still use it. But I know if I don’t go get that oil change, it’s going to have longer-term implications and have more harm on my car than if I were just to take a couple of minutes and go get the oil changed.

We need to pay attention to these warning signs. If you ignore the gas light on your car and you run out of gas on the side of the freeway, it’s so much more stressful and frustrating and annoying to get gas than if you just paid attention to the light and went and got gas. It’s the same thing with us. If we are ignoring these red flags and warning signs that we have daily, that we’re starting to get to that high-stress anxiety overwhelm state, we are most likely going to keep burning through and getting to that higher state where it’s harder to get ourselves out of it. Most of us know, just like with your car, usually you know, ‘Okay, I need to put gas in it, I need to put wiper fluid, I need to change the oil, I need to replace the battery, or I need to take it into the auto mechanic shop and see what’s going on.’ We know what we need to do.

It’s the same thing with us. We know what most of us need. We need connection, we need to feel safe, we need to feel secure, we need sleep, we need probably to drink more water, we need to eat food that feels good in our bodies, we need to move our bodies, we need more natural light, we need to go outside, we need to have fun, we need to grow. We know what we need. But what I want us to focus on is to start noticing what are those warning signs, those red flags that you’re having daily, and start being aware of them. If we don’t know what those signs are, we’re just going to go from day to day to, like, ‘Whom, all of a sudden, we’re stressed and overwhelmed.’ We’re very aware of what that is.

So let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean by warning signs in a non-work setting. For me, warning signs that I’m starting to get stressed and overwhelmed in the morning when I’m trying to get my kids out the door is I start checking the time very frequently. I’m like hyper-aware to the minute of what time it is. That’s a sign I’m starting to stress about all the things I need to get done for the day.

Another sign that I’m starting to get to that high anxiety place is I start yelling and telling my kids to hurry up, or I get really short with them. I’m not listening to what they’re saying to me; I’m just yelling at them to put their shoes on and get in the car. Those are signs to me that I’m going from the safe, good place of “here we are in the morning, I can do this” to “oh no, I don’t have time for this, we’re going to be late.” Or I think of it outside of work times with a partner when I have a sign that I’m starting to get frustrated and annoyed. I am a big sigh-roller, so I will, like, make some sound audibly, and I usually close my eyes, but I am an eye-roller. I’m like, “Oh, I roll my eyes. I’m so annoyed, I get frustrated.” That’s a red flag to me, that’s a warning sign I’m starting to get into that high frustration. Maybe that person is texting me, and I’ll just avoid reading the text or replying to their message. Sometimes I go and I scroll social media and don’t get anything out of it. I’m just trying to avoid them. A lot of times I’ll start blaming them in my head, in my head I’ll start kind of nitpicking and picking them apart. These are signs that I am about to get really frustrated and stressed and annoyed. There’s nothing wrong with them, we’re human. Some of these things I’m working on, some of them I’m like, “Yeah, I’m just an eye-roller, it’s okay.” We’re not here to be aware of them to judge them, we just need to start being aware. We gotta know, what’s the check engine light? What’s the thing I need to start paying attention to and take care of now so that it doesn’t become a bigger problem down the road? Let’s look at it in a work setting. Now, as I’ve worked on this concept with my clients and myself, it’s a little trickier, I think sometimes, to notice the signs in a work setting because they’re a little more subtle, because the social norms are different at work. If I yell at someone at work and tell them to hurry up, most likely my manager and HR and some other people are going to get involved because that’s not appropriate, whereas at home, that’s not the case. I’m not saying it’s okay to yell at my kids, and it’s definitely something I’m working on, but in a work setting, we are, you know, quote-unquote polite with each other. We kind of cover it up and play political games and put on a little bit more of a face. So sometimes finding your warning signs is a little trickier because they’re not as obvious, but it’s okay. We are brilliant, smart people, we can figure this out. Here’s what some of my signs are, some of my clients in a work setting, and maybe these are true for you too. For me, it’s bad posture. I can tell I start to hunch over, I kind of tighten up my shoulders. That’s a sign that I’m starting to get stressed and overwhelmed. Or all of a sudden, I want a Diet Coke. My body never needs a Diet Coke, but I can tell usually when out of random blue I’m like, “Oh, I need a Diet Coke right now.” That’s a sign there’s something that I’m avoiding and trying to feel better with a Diet Coke because I’m moving towards that stress-anxiety space again.

I’m an eye roller and a siren. I do a lot of that at work as well, or if I’m on a call or in a meeting, I kind of start talking crap about the person in my head. Or even better, I’ll start instant messaging some of my work friends. Can you believe they’re doing this so and so? I can’t believe it! I start complaining. I tighten my jaw. I notice this a lot as we were having a lot of video conferencing during COVID. I was starting to have job pain. I was really clenching my jaw when I was starting to feel frustrated on these work calls or in these meetings. I just stopped listening altogether. I just disengage and start doing something else. It feels okay because I’m still working, but I can tell me disengaging from the meeting and yet staying on the call and pretending to still be there is a sign I’m starting to get really stressed and frustrated and overwhelmed.

Or another big one I see with a lot of my clients as well is like, we’ll go off camera. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. Sometimes you need to preserve your energy. Sometimes you just can’t be on camera, that’s fine. But if you’re going off camera because you’re starting to feel that ting of stress and frustration and annoyance, it’s just good to know that’s a sign. That’s a red flag. It’s a warning. It’s the light on the dashboard. Okay, I also notice at work I avoid doing that big thing I know I need to get done and probably need to get done that day, and I do kind of all the less important little mundane work.

I want you to be aware, what are your red flags? What are your warning signs? There’s no right or wrong way of this, and it’s going to be different for you at different times in different settings. But what are the things that you can tell you’re starting to head into that really high-stress zone? Being aware of it is crucial because then we can do something, help ourselves before it grows into overall stress, anxiety, panic, burnout.

And here’s the other thing, you’re going to notice it hundreds of times a day. This is not a, “Oh, it happened twice and now it’s, I caught myself and I didn’t get stressed.” No, you’re gonna have to be aware hundreds of times a day. There’s so much happening in our world that we think about in ways that make us feel stressed and anxious and overwhelmed. It’s okay, but you’ve got to know what are those signs and know you’re probably having them hundreds of times a day.

So in future podcasts, I’m going to talk more about what do you do when you find yourself in that high-stress zone. But here’s one thing I want to give you today when you catch the warning sign. If you notice, “Okay, I’m starting to roll my eyes. I’m starting to complain. I’m multitasking. I feel like I want to go off camera,” here’s one thing you can do, and it literally takes three seconds. It’s called the physiological sigh. I’ve talked about it on here before, go look it up on YouTube. But you want to take two breaths in through your nose and one longer breath out through your mouth.

There’s extensive data and science behind the biological impact this has on your nervous system, and this is one way you can build that strength, build that safety with your nervous system. But it’s a long breath in through your nose, and then one shorter breath in through your nose, and one longer breath out through your mouth.

It goes like this. And maybe do that one or two times. That’s all. What you’re going to do is you’re going to notice you feel more relaxed, you feel more calm, you feel more than that. Okay, I can do this space. And you may need to do that hundreds of times a day. Okay, that’s one tactic. So there are two other things you could do when you notice these warning signs, but I want to teach them to you in relation to the specific warning signs you’re having.

So, I want you to go and schedule a coffee chat with me so that I can teach you these two things, and we can apply it specifically to your warning signs. There’s a link in the show notes, or you can go to and grab one of those spots. But I want to teach you these two other tools you can use to catch yourself when you notice that warning sign before you spiral into that stress and overwhelm.

Learning how to know what your warning signs are and how to manage your nervous system once you’re aware, this is how we daily keep ourselves in a safe, calm, enjoyable space. We still want to go on vacation, we still want to go for a hike, we still want to have fun and play, but we don’t need to do that because we need a break from the stress and overwhelm of work. When we learn how to manage it daily, that is where we’re able to figure things out.

Alright, you’re amazing. I can’t wait to talk to you and hear what are those warning signs for you and teach you the two additional ways to deal with them in the moment. I should also say there’s no obligation with this call. It’s completely free. There are no strings attached. I just want to make sure that you’re applying what you’re learning because I believe what the world needs now more than ever is emotionally intelligent leaders. There are too many lazy leaders out there telling people to do more with less and to just say no, when at the end of the day, that’s not actually helping. That’s just adding to the stress and overwhelm. So, I want to help you be that emotionally intelligent leader because we need you, my friend. Alright, 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 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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