Three chimps and a turtle live in our house.
Not literally, of course [though wouldn’t that be fun!]
I’m talking about my family and our stress styles.
Eden is our adorable wee turtle. Today, she was upset by an altercation she’d had with Zoë. She ran off to the playroom, hid under a blanket and point blank refused to come out. When I finally persuaded her to emerge, she just cuddled me in silence for what seemed like a VERY long time. When she was ready, she hopped down and off she went. Not a word said.
You see, if you’re a turtle and you’re put under stress … your first instinct is to hide. When you’re threatened, your natural impulse is to withdraw from the situation altogether. Faced with confrontation, you bury your head in your shell for a while until you’re ready to come out. If you’re a turtle, instead of talking about how you feel, you’ll have a tendency to internalise emotions in your body. For you, stress might manifest in physical, rather than emotional symptoms; headaches, digestive issues, palpitations and so on.
The other three members of our household, on the other hand, are always a little too ready to vocalise our opinion in an animated fashion.
The first day Bill and I met, we had an argument.
You could say it was love at first fight.
I strongly disagreed with a theological viewpoint he held. And clearly that passion had a major wooing effect, because he just had to get my number to apologise. We’ve been arguing ever since, but we are more in love than we’ve ever been.
When Zoë came along, though, it seems we met our match. Two strong-willed adults versus one of her, and yet somehow the four year old often still seems to win. She could ‘buy and sell ye,’ as they say here in Northern Ireland. Her determination is fiery, her passion is impressive, and her negotiation skills are something else altogether.
You see, if you’re a chimp, stress or conflict brings out the inner monkey in you.
You give off
You have extreme emotions
You can become a bit defensive and moody
You might even screech when something annoys you!
The reality is that during this time of lockdown, all of us are under prolonged stress. It’s having a major impact on all of us, whether we want to recognise it or not. Work pressures, financial uncertainties, missing loved ones and constraints on our freedoms will at times feel like too much to bear.
How are you responding to the stress?
Some of us will internalise it, process it inwardly, and get uncomfortably quiet. Others need to vent, complain and moan dramatically every now again.
Both are completely normal.
But here’s the deal.
Those of us who are chimps need to take a leaf out of the turtle’s book every now and then. When I feel ready to snap at whoever is unfortunate enough to come my direction next, maybe I should try hiding under a blanket for a while instead. It might just calm me down.
Same goes for the turtles. Believe it or not, sometimes it is actually good to talk about how you feel. Why not emerge from the safety of your shell every now and then and share that heavy load you’ve been carrying around? ‘Cause sometimes your shell can also become your burden.
What’s your stress animal? And how can you tame it to serve you better during this time?