Stress and Overwhelm

Emotions and feelings can be so all-encompassing. We can feel weighed down and immobilized by our feelings. And when we attach narratives to our feelings, we can get even more stuck.

Let’s look at what we mean by attaching narratives to our feelings…

We have talked about how our life experiences form our worldview – the lens through which we see the world. Our lens helps us make sense of the world. Unless we work at it, we are often not conscious of our worldview or how it forms the stories we tell ourselves. From an evolutionary perspective, the goal of our worldview is always survival. We are not wired to be objective; we rarely have all the context when something happens to us, but our brains still make up a story to fill in the gaps and make sense of a situation.

For example:

  • Triggering event: My peer support supervisor was just curt and abrasive with me when I said hi.
  • My mind wants to make sense of the event: I don’t know anything about what’s going on with Tim, but I’m pretty sure his rudeness has something to do with me.
  • The story I’m telling myself is: The rude comment is because I did something wrong. I’m in trouble, and I’m sure I’m going to be fired.
  • Rumination can happen: For the next two days I am on edge and worried, replaying events of the week. I am frightened about losing my job.
  • What I find out days later: Tim had just received news of a major funding cut right before I saw him. That’s why he was stressed out and rude to me.

Our minds fill in the blanks, and more likely than not the story we create is inaccurate.

For Reflection

  • Can you think of some situations when your mind filled in the blank, and the story was wrong?
  • What are some tools you have that have helped you stop ruminating on difficult feelings?
  • What are some of your triggers and stressors? Feeling prepared ahead of time can really support you to manage these stressors.
  • What can you do to support and soothe yourself when you are stressed out? Consider things that ground you to your senses (getting outside, smelling a calming scent, deep breathing)



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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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