At work yesterday I was concentrating on some year-end financial reports when my cell phone rang. I answered distractedly, assuming it was a friend or coworker. Instead, it turned out to be a recruiter, calling me about a resume that I had submitted several weeks ago. My body went immediately into ALERT status. My pulse quickened, I began to take shallower breaths, and I actually stood up in reaction to the adrenaline pouring into my system.
After laboring through my initial incoherency (what did this guy say his name was? what company was this? how did they get my name?), I began concentrating as hard as I could on what the interviewer was saying, and providing coherent, logical and interesting answers. It always sucks to have a surprise interview, but even more so when you’re in marketing and trying to sell yourself as a ‘strategic communicator.’
When I got off the phone, my body was still in hyperactive stress mode. And all I could think was ‘I NEED TO EAT!’ The urge to stuff something –anything– into my mouth was almost overwhelming. Nevermind my weight progress this month, never mind my healthy eating goal for the day, every inhibiting signal in my brain had been squelched by this visceral gut reaction. EAT !!
The amazing thing is, anytime I get a call about a job opening, its always good news. I certainly wasn’t feeling anger, or sorrow or fear. It was simply the immediate reaction I had to the stimulus of a potential career opportunity. And when the initial trigger was overwith, I was still excited, happy, and curious – all positive emotions. So why then, this overpowering urgency to EAT!?!
The answer seems to be found in that fight or flight stress response. Its such an integral part of our physiological system that only the most practiced zen master could truly ignore it’s effects. And whether its ‘good’ stress or ‘bad’ stress, the physical changes and mental processes that result from it are the same.
Fortunately, there was nothing to snack on at my desk, and it gave me a moment’s pause. In haste, I decided that I needed some kind of physical response, so I actually got up and went to the gym. In the middle of the day! And once there, I talked myself into getting onto the treadmill, even though I didn’t want to (I just wanted to EAT!!). And lo and behold, 20 minutes later, having pumped my heart through a couple of miles of cardio, I felt calm. Returning to my office, I was once again focused and alert.
So when those alarm bells go off, it seems to me that the best we can do is try and steer ourselves in the most positive direction. Because food –even though it clearly isn’t the answer– is instant, gratifying, and calming. Our strategies need to be just as quick, easy and effective.
Thank goodness I had that gym bag in the trunk of my car.