I’ve been making mistakes lately—fortunately nothing major, but mistakes nonetheless. I managed to forget to text a client back to confirm their appointment. I told a colleague of mine to meet on Wednesday, when I meant all along for us to get together on Thursday. I left something in the fridge at my house that I totally needed when I was making dinner at a friend’s house. I smashed my pinky finger on accident. Twelve hours later I opened a door onto my foot, nearly breaking one of my toes—the exact toe that I have already broken before, three times. Ouch! (FYI: It’s not broken, yay!)
Then came the coup de grace: I yelled. Like, really lost my temper and yelled at the top of my lungs at a group of people. Now you could say that these folks were asking for it, since they were racing down my favorite local hike on mountain bikes at about 30 miles an hour and barely missed my friend and I, but, really, I just don’t think I should be screaming at anyone. It isn’t my style. Nor is it the type of behavior I encourage my clients to indulge in. Most importantly, it isn’t strategic. They didn’t care, hence why they were recklessly headed down a mixed-use trail like they were the only people in the world. And, when I acted all bossy and yelled at them to “SLOW DOWN!”, they totally ignored me.
What is my problem? I’m not normally as clumsy and forgetful as I have been the past week or so. I try really, really hard to never make dumb errors with clients, or with other people’s schedules. And I am certainly not well-known for losing my cool and screaming at strangers. Anytime I start to act out of character, non-strategically and in ways that I would not feel proud about, it is time to examine what is going on. I call these types of errors cracks in the functioning. Nothing life-threatening or horrible, but out of character and not how I would prefer to be managing myself. Little errors, small missteps, silly behavior, nothing that will upend anything; just little cracks.
Cracks in the functioning typically happen when a person is fielding more stress than usual. Anytime our attention is being demanded by life’s big issues, little issues tend to arise. For example, my client in the middle of a divorce discovered his keys in the fridge. Another client went to drop off her child at school…on a Saturday (don’t worry, they both figured it out before the kiddo went off on a solo adventure in an empty school). Minor fender benders, lost stuff, losing your temper in situations you’d normally brush off— all this stuff represents cracks in the functioning.
When I assessed my last week, a higher level of stress was absolutely present: trying to fit a full work week into three days because we had a funeral to attend. Another friend passing away in a terrible accident, and not being able to make it across the country for his funeral. A difficult family situation totally unrelated to the deaths. And then all the basic stuff like traffic and grocery shopping (anyone else feel like errands create stress?) and parenting a teen and, and, and… you get the picture. Whenever the basic life stressors are amped up, we need to give ourselves a little grace and space, because mistakes can, and likely will, happen during these times. It is a great time to slow down, work your systems (keys in the bowl by the door, every time!), and take extra care when doing the little stuff so that you can stay clear and calm in the face of fielding tension and stress.
Notice and acknowledge that you have an extra helping of stress, and take good care of yourself. Take a break when you can. Back off of obligations that increase stress if you are able. Slow down and stop yourself from getting to the point where you are yelling when what you really meant to do was enjoy your hike.