How to know which stress trap you’re caught in and how to get out

When you feel others are just stupid or uncaring or the world is a dark place, then you are stuck in a stress trap. You are swamped with anxiety, frustration and overwhelm. And you see little hope for relief on the horizon.

Unfortunately, the very stressful situation that gets you stuck, also demands of you to be at your best so you can deal with it. Meanwhile you are at your most vulnerable.

Here you will learn, how to recognise the three most basic stress traps and how you can get out of them.

If reading this introduction makes you

  1. feel impatient or even angry, keep on reading. It means, you need to hear this.
  2. wonder if I have anything useful to add after stating the obvious, read on. You are about to learn something interesting.
  3. feel relief at someone tabling these stress issues, I have more comfort for you. You will find out how stress looks for different people and how to help others and yourself.

You might find that you agree – even if only faintly - with one or more of the 3 statements. Each of the statements corresponds with one basic stress trap. There are as many variations of these traps as there are people. But I’m sure you will know which parts of each of the basic models, make up your personal stress trap.

Basic Stress Trap for statement 1

Getting things done is your superpower and your stress trap

What stresses you

  • Being forced into inactivity
  • Having so little control over what happens to you, your family and your work right now
  • Other people not seeing the obvious next steps or opportunities
  • Not being able to move at the pace that you would like to

What you do when stressed

As you are sure what’s best, you take charge. You tell people what to do. You fill the day with activity and goals. (You like your goals hairy and audacious.)

How you get stuck in the trap (or why others are stupid)

Others do not fully get what you want, or they just don’t do it fast enough. Sometimes you wish they would tell you in plain language what their problem is. If they do it with a meek voice or cannot meet your eyes, it just makes you angry. Face it, you can create a lot of drama. The truth is that people around you are intimidated by your certainty, confidence, instructions – and your latent or apparent anger. That’s what makes them act ‘stupid’. This in turn makes you become even more insistent. And there you go … all of you into your shared misery.

How to get out

  • Be honest with yourself about your current level of anger. It starts with impatience, develops into frustration and then becomes anger. Others will always feel your level of anger and that determines their level of ‘stupidity’. Tread carefully, even if you feel impatience ‘only’.
  • Move to get rid of access energy: run on the spot, do body-weight exercises, do whatever it takes in the space that you have. This will also take the fire out of your impatience, frustration or anger.
  • Slow down and listen to others. Truly listen to hear something new.
  • Lean into your many positives: let your enthusiastic energy be a tonic to others, bring out your funny side, consciously trust and respect others: you have the gift of boosting other’s self-confidence

What would really help you relax now:

If you are a seasoned cook already, try cooking completely new, exotic dishes. If you have not cooked a lot before, get cooking. The key is to challenge yourself to do something exciting that is also useful in the current situation.

Basic Stress Trap for statement 2

Deep thinking is your superpower and your stress trap

What stresses you

  • chaos, unforeseen changes
  • unclear motives in others, things not adding up
  • noise, not being able to be alone in a quiet space,
  • doing things without a plan, people not doing what you agreed on
  • things not being in their place

What you do when stressed

You become very quiet. You look on the chaos and feel listless and defeated. You do a lot of research to understand what is going on. You need to make sense of things. You assume the worst and are suspicious of others. You feel very anxious.

How you get stuck in the stress trap (or why the world is unsafe)

You cut yourself off. You replace talking to others with your own interpretation of their actions. For example, your neighbour exercising in the apartment above you to work off his own stress, becomes an act of pure thoughtlessness and intentional annoyance. You tend to see your suspicions of others confirmed. In your research, you veer towards reading what gives more ground to your (pessimistic) assessment. The world around you becomes even more unsafe and scary. And you become even more suspicious, anxious and withdrawn.

How to get out

  • Open up to others. Talk to them to find out what their intentions are. Or just ask for what you need.
  • Re-focus and take in what gives you hope.
  • Meditate to still your mind. Negative thoughts increase your anxiety which in turn triggers negative thoughts and so on.
  • Try yoga to get in touch with your body. As your anxiety reduces, you might find a lot of joy. You will notice it in your body first.
  • Make your thinking the precise instrument it can be by testing your assumptions. Don’t let unchallenged assumptions take over your thinking process.

What could really help you relax now:

You could read a non-fiction book that captures your interest, for example about the brain or veganism. You crave deep, meaningful conversations. Seek out your friends with whom you enjoy a meeting of minds.

Basic Stress Trap for statement 3

Caring is your superpower and your stress trap

What stresses you

  • Seeing others unhappy – especially a loved one
  • Not even getting a Thank You for all you do for others
  • Not having a warming heart-to-heart and a hug from your loved ones
  • People smiling down at your caring, intuitive ways and spiritual interests

What you do when stressed

You try to keep everyone fed, entertained and in touch – in other words happy. It’s tough for you to say NO when someone asks you for support. You also find it hard to give a straight answer, even to an easy question like: Would you like pasta or a steak for dinner? You do not want to make it difficult for the other person. Or maybe you don’t care as long as everyone is happy. A part of you wishes for the one who asked the question to care enough about you to know the answer. You often feel drained but don’t like to admit it to yourself. However, you would like someone else to see it, thank you for all your hard work, give you a hug and send you off for a rest with a cup of tea.

How you get stuck in this stress trap (or why everybody just doesn’t care)

The things that you wish for, usually don’t happen. However much you give to others, the love and care does not come back to you. As you become more and more unhappy, you feel resentful towards others. You start nagging others to do things. The problem is that people see you as a person with endless energy because that is how you look. They simply don’t get your hints and have no clue what you are looking for. Also, as you become resentful, it is difficult to show you love.

How to get out

  • Ask for what you want, your loved ones will be grateful for that clarity. You’ll find they are happy to help (if you let them and if your request is not loaded with resentment).
  • Give yourself the breaks you need. It’s okay to take them.
  • Stop measuring yourself or others by the care given
  • Make sure to fill your tank with love first, before you hand it out to others.

What really helps you to relax right now:

Cuddle up on your couch with your loved ones (at least have them on the phone with you) Pamper yourself with favourite snacks and let yourself watch your beloved feel-good movies.

Remember that everyone is just trying to do their best, at all times. The world is light and dark, in fact, it is colourful. No one is stupid or uncaring. And neither are you. If you would like to find out more about how to escape your stress trap, check out my Know-Yourself Package on I have helped hundreds of people to move into their best selves.

Happily designed by Vanja Lakerveld –