This past Monday night, at our Life Group, we had a discussion about how we handle stress and conflict in our lives. The question was asked, “When stressful situations arise, do you handle lead with emotion or fact?” Our group is pretty much evenly divided and interestingly enough, as couples, we tend to balance each other out. In our home, Dan is much more rational than I am. He is a “Here are the facts, now we need a plan and we need to work the plan” kind of person. My usual response is “OH MY GOODNESS! The world is ending and we are ending and everything is ending and I may as well just forget about anything ever being the way it’s supposed to be ever again.” ( Dan loves this part of me. Really.)
One of the men in the group said something that resonated with me. I’ll paraphrase because it was five days ago and I’m old and can’t remember stuff, but basically, he said this. “I’m pretty rational. But sometimes, when things happen, you just need five minutes to be really mad and yell at God and stomp your feet about it all…and then you move on and get down to the business of handling it.”
Five minutes. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the midst of a stressful situation, it can be a lifetime. As I was pondering this “Five-minute” thought, it came up again, in a totally different place. I told you last week that I’m part of the Launch Team for a new book that is coming out in June. The author is someone I admire greatly, and her book is just the most amazing thing (Seriously–you all need to order it RIGHT AWAY. As soon as I tell you what it is…next month.)
She was talking about how her son is now playing tackle football. She asked him how he wanted her to handle it if he gets hurt and goes down on the field. He said “Here’s what you should do. If I go down, I’d like for you to take out your phone and set a timer for five minutes. You have to promise that you won’t stop onto the field until those five minutes are up. If five minutes go by and no one has helped me yet, then you can quietly let my coach know.” The Five-minute thought again. (And I should mention that this came from a 12-year-old. Please join me in being gobsmacked at his wisdom.)
Same amount of time–two different approaches. The “yell-and-stomp” approach and the “sit-and-wait” approach. What they have in common is this–it’s a controlled response for a set amount of time. For the “yell-and-stomp” approach, you get to react how you need to react because your feelings are your feelings and they are valid…but they cannot control this situation. By putting a five-minute “cap” on the crazy, you are setting a limit for yourself. I’m the “worst-case scenario” girl. I can go from calm to catastrophe in nanoseconds…and it’s VERY HARD (If not almost impossible) for me to reign myself in once I’ve ramped it up. I’m wondering if giving myself a set amount of time to lose my mind, instead of it being an open-ended response, might be the ticket to getting me to be able to handle things better.
On the other side, we have the “sit-and-wait” approach. Five minutes before you can react. Five minutes to see if there is even a crisis before you react in a panic. Five minutes to see if the situation will resolve itself…or at least make itself clearer. One of the problems with having “complete panic” as my default mode is that before I even fully understand what’s happening, I’ve already gotten myself into such a state that I can’t see the forest for the trees. Setting the timer on my phone and forcing myself to wait until it goes off could be what helps me get a better idea of what’s actually happening.
Could the two be used together? I think so. Set the timer for five minutes. Get a handle on the situation. And when it goes off, if you need to have a five-minute yell-and-stomp session…well at least you know what you’re yelling-and-stomping about. But again–set the timer. Put an end on it or before you know it you’ll be off the rails and won’t be able to handle anything.
My author-friend also suggests having a plan BEFORE the crisis. If you know yourself, and you know that panic is your default (I’m talking to myself here) then having a plan in place before the crisis can help your respond better. And remember–sometimes, there is no time for a five-minute time-out or a five-minute yell-and-stomp session. Sometimes, you need to act. Be bold. Do so with confidence. You’ve got the Creator of the whole universe in your corner. You can do this.