What is a stress silo?
A stress silo is what many us put ourselves in when we are faced with those common life challenges. These can include deadlines at work, change, setbacks, or multi-tasking, just to name a few examples. It is when we disconnect from those around us, cut off our connections and go into our own heads until we work through/out the problem.
We may hide the problem under the guise of “concentrating” and “focusing”. And yes, we do need to focus, but there is a stark difference between focusing and stress. Focusing is where we are concentrated on our next moves. We act on it with confidence in ourselves, our abilities and the likely results. Stress is where we begin to focus on the things out of our control, and the potential negative outcomes of making a mistake. When siloing, there is nothing to dilute these ruminative thoughts. These thoughts can distract us from taking meaningful action or seeing ourselves taking that action towards a resolution. We either become overwhelmed and unable to cope (meltdown), or we push forward distracted, knowing we aren’t on top of our game (leading to poor performance).
How can staying engaged benefit our relationships?
Overall siloing aids fuel to the fire of our stress. It prevents us from accessing the tremendous benefits that engaged relationships offer us during times of stress. Staying engaged in our relationships provide three distinct benefits;
Reminds us that there is more to life than the specific task causing stress
This can help us remain realistic as to the true outcome of a negative result. We all have a habit of overplaying this in our own minds. When was truly the last time you were in a life or death situation vs when you built something up to that level?
Engaged relationships help us normalise our feelings
Sometimes knowing simply that our emotional response (e.g. stress or anxiousness) is a warranted helps us accept the situation. This prevents our emotions from distracting us and allows us to focus back on what we can control.
Staying engaged with those around us can help to realise options and solutions which we did not immediately recognise or think about. This can help identify an actionable game plan we can control to resolve the issue producing the stress.
Why do we silo?
Everyone is different. One (and common) reason can be guilt/embarrassment of the perception of “not coping” or being inadequate. It is a tough gig admitting when you are out of your depth or concerned. On this note, we may silo to preserve “safety”. However, we need to remind ourselves that support from others and making mistakes is part of learning and improving. Particularly if we have support to clean up the mistakes early before it’s too late. You would rather make a mess of everything early on and get support before it is too late, instead of failing independently until the last minute when no one can help fix it.
So how do we not silo?
Run a cost-benefit analysis as to what “siloing” results in
If you still don’t believe that silo’ing is a one-way ticket to struggle street. Run through your mind the last time you silo’ed yourself and didn’t talk, what was the outcome? What would have happened had you spoken to a colleague, mentor, friend or family member? How would you have coped with and performed in that situation?
Understand your triggers
Build a firm understanding of what triggers your stress (aka what you stress about). Then, forecast where you may encounter these triggers in your life (short-term and long-term). Understanding this can help you to recognise when you are likely to action a siloing response so you can actively override these behaviours through engaging in your trusted relationships (part of action 3).
Consciously build a trusted network
Take time to think about the different roles you play in life (work, family, social, community etc.). Think about your network in these different areas. When faced with challenges, who you would feel comfortable discussing them with? Think about what type of person you would want to talk to. Is it someone older or younger? Someone with more experience and has been in my shoes before? Or is completely removed from the situation? Am I wanting someone who will simply listen or who will provide practical advice? By doing this, it can help you by identifying what support you need most. It may also provide an opportunity for you to understand where you may need to firm up your network to gain additional support.