My fear has changed since having kids. Keeping my children and family safe is at the top of my list. This recently led to an epiphany for me on how I differ from others in how I deal with stress (or fear or anxiety).
When we went camping a few months ago, a lightning storm unexpectedly arrived. The thunder was loud and lightning was getting closer. As my husband was tending to the tent and campfire he was building with our oldest son my anxiety went through the roof. I didn’t experience a gradual increase in anxiety. The thunder boomed, my anxiety shot up and I immediately thought, we need to get inside. Our car was parked nearby and I felt this was much safer than being outside. Our youngest son was upset by the thunder and asked to go into the car. We went into the car and I tried to wait as patiently as I could for my husband and older son to arrive. It took them several minutes and a lot of nonverbal communication between my husband and I (picture me giving him the “what are you doing?” and “get over here now” looks). My husband wasn’t pleased, but eventually complied and they got into the car. While I thought it was obvious we needed to get in the car my husband didn’t feel the same. He didn’t appreciate my anxiety because he wasn’t experiencing the same thing I was.
I would love to tell you I came to this realization on my own, but I didn’t. Someone shared some very good insight with me. People experience stress (which takes many forms including anxiety or fear) in different ways. Some confront stress, take it on and work to get through it. Others avoid it altogether. Simply put, some people handle stress by taking action, others by inaction.
When you and your spouse disagree about something, each of you thinks you’re right, and it’s common to try to coerce your spouse to your way of thinking. Except it doesn’t work and can lead to unwanted compromise and resentment.
I experience fear in real-time. I trust my gut. I do not have an off button or a way to avoid feeling it. It is front-and-center when it occurs and can get very intense very quickly depending on how fearful I am. My husband doesn’t experience stress the way I do, and we’re learning how to better communicate what’s really going on which each other when we experience stress, and what we can do to meet each other’s needs.
It’s not easy, but it’s needed. I realize I can no longer expect him to feel what I’m feeling, but need to make it clear to him that I’m experiencing stress (e.g. I am getting very uncomfortable being outside with this lightning and thunder). If he is unwilling to share my stress, I need to be clear on how he can help me feel better (e.g. can we get in the car for the next 15 minutes until the storm passes?). It’s little tweaks for us to better communicate and understand each other. It’s about feelings (talk about scary!) and being confident enough to know when you are experiencing them and when they’re not.
How do you handle stress? Do you take action or do you avoid dealing with the situation?
By not taking action, do your family members experience stress?