Jennifer Miller
By Jennifer Miller on September 22, 2022

Surviving or Thriving?

The other day I was in a meeting chatting with someone about some projects, and when I asked how they were feeling about the work, their response was, “I’m surviving.” In my mind, this is a little red flag for me to know a person might be getting to a stressed-out point. We aren’t here just to survive but to thrive. Usually, the “surviving” mindset means we’re playing around in the weeds too much and are starting to feel overloaded (or maybe we’re already there!).

Do you have a support system where you can raise the red flag and let your team know you are in the weeds and need some help? Or how about when you are truly overwhelmed and just need pure relief?

“We feel stressed when we evaluate environmental demand as beyond our ability to cope successfully. This includes elements of unpredictability, uncontrollability, and feeling overloaded.”*

Our businesses, jobs, life, parenthood, families, etc. all impact us differently at different times. We react and cope differently based on the environment. Some stress isn’t bad for our bodies and well-being as, through it, we are challenged to look at things differently, ask for help, learn to adapt, etc. Perpetual stress can, however, impact more of our lives than we realize. 

“Overwhelmed means an extreme level of stress, an emotional and/or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.”*

If we aren’t careful, stress can turn into overwhelm. Somewhat like a frog in a pot of water slowly coming to a boil. He doesn’t realize the extreme heat until it’s too late. How can we set up checkpoints and triggers to help us do a stress gut-check so we don’t go down that spiral?

I think we’ve probably all been in the overwhelmed state before (maybe even now?) - you know, that feeling when you just can’t verbalize anything; you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing (or not doing what you should be doing); you don’t know how to respond when someone asks “how can I help?”

A few years back, I had a friend who was going through her son's tragic death. Losing someone in your life is hard, but a son in his 20s is another kind of hard. Someone gave me the best advice ever during this time - “Don’t ask how you can help. Just help.” My practical mind just needed to know what she needed, but she was in “overwhelm,” and asking her what she needed would have just given me a deer in headlights look. She didn’t know what she needed. After the fog cleared some, I remember us talking and her recalling all of the things people just did to help her when she didn’t know how to function anymore. Sometimes we need people to jump in and support us when we hit this overwhelming state.

Is there anyone on your team that might have indicators of starting to hit this level? Are there things you could do to support them without having to ask them?

How about you? Do you feel like the circumstances around you are starting to flow out of control? The unknown of the future, of how things will change, is beginning to impact how you tackle the day and interact with others? We all respond differently and have different thresholds we can function in, but it’s important to pause and think through how you can prevent the spiral.

I think Brené Brown’s description of “stressed” listed above ties to leadership and how we run through our days. I often find myself realizing I’m “in the weeds” of things too much or maybe even asking others, “are you too far in the weeds?” I’m a detail person, so I often find myself in the weeds - they always need tending and help, but there is no way we can tackle all of the weeds on our own. Equipping and supporting our team around us to do what they do best allows us to soar above the weeds a bit. We can lower our stress and overwhelmed levels by being ahead of things - attack those unpredictable and unknown things by making them known. Working on your business to invest in future stability not only removes your stress but also allows your team to function without stress as well. You might even find yourself thriving instead of just surviving.

Taking this step to transition from being in the weeds to working on your business can take a layer of vulnerability as you look to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, shifting to supporting other people’s strengths.

“The ability to embrace vulnerability emerges as the prerequisite for daring leadership behaviors. If we can’t handle uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure in a way that aligns with our values and furthers our organizational goals, we can’t lead.

In a world where perfectionism, pleasing, and proving are used as armor to protect our egos and our feelings, it takes a lot of courage to show up and be all in when we can’t control the outcome. It also takes discipline and self-awareness to understand what to share and with whom. Vulnerability is not oversharing, it’s sharing with people who have earned the right to hear our stories and our experiences. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”* - Brené Brown

Will you take that step of courage to transition from surviving to thriving?

I definitely recommend Brené’s recent book, Atlas of the Heart, if you want to dig into this concept and many others around how our heart and mind work together. Another great resource you could check out is our eBook that focuses on balancing your ON vs. IN time for your business. You might get some insight into how many weeds you are digging through right now with your business and how to make a shift.

*Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

Published by Jennifer Miller September 22, 2022
Jennifer Miller