Managing Stress and Change

author/source: Stacey Shipman

Sphoto by tim collinsometimes we reach a certain level of accomplishment in our life or business and then some obstacle, real or imagined, gets in our way. Let me explain.

One Saturday last Fall my husband Michael and I went rock climbing at a local indoor rock climbing gym.  A cavernous space with walls 65 feet high, climbers of all ages and skill level including pre-teens celebrating birthdays to the avid climber training for an upcoming adventure.  We fell somewhere in the middle. Before I continue it’s important to note that Michael grew up in a family that promoted adventure and risk-taking. He spent weekends hiking, camping, and sharpening the blade of a pocket knife.  Me? I grew up in a Middle-Eastern family that played it safe. My weekends were spent close to home, cooking in the kitchen, and arguing over whether the hummus had enough garlic and lemon.

So, when we arrived at the rock gym that Saturday, Michael showed up with a bag full of climbing gear and I showed up with a bag full of snacks. Hummus, of course.

After a quick safety briefing, we geared up and started to climb.  The first few climbs went well. But, as Michael completed his 4th climb and I prepared for mine, he said, “About halfway up there is a broken handhold. Watch out for it.”  I looked up at the wall, 65 feet high and 20 feet across, and said, “No problem! Plenty of places to grab.”  Sure enough, halfway up the wall, the broken handhold got in my way.  I reached left and right, to no avail. That broken handhold was exactly where I needed to go next. And it was not available to me. I yelled down to Michael 30 feet below me to give me slack in the rope so I could come down.

He said, “Take a minute, I’ve got you!”  “But there is nowhere for me to go,” I insisted. “Please let me down.”  “I’ve got you. You got this!” He said again.

Panic set in. My heart raced, knuckles turned white, and sweat formed on my brow.  Why won’t he let me down?  He never listens!  My mother would NEVER let this happen!

I pleaded, “What am I supposed to do? I have nowhere to go!”

“Stacey, I’ve got you. You got this. Let go of the wall, rest and we’ll come up with a plan.”  30 feet up and he wants me to let go and hang? My grip tightened, sweat dripped down my face and my heart beat faster.  Neither holding on nor letting go felt safe. So, I tightened my grip and closed my eyes.=

photo by filippo ruffiniWhat keeps you hanging on in those moments when you want to quit?

Clinging to that wall, Michael’s whisper got louder, Ive got you. Youve got this.” Slowly, I began to believe it.  Exhausted, I took a deep breath and one finger at a time, let go of the wall and allowed myself to hang and rest.  Within minutes my heart rate settled, feeling in my fingers returned, and my limbs felt strong again. 

Vitals back in check, I asked Michael, “OK, now what?”  He said, “I’m going to give you some slack in the rope. You come down the wall a little bit, move left or right, and then keep climbing.”  Duh. I’d been so caught up in the panic that I couldn’t see a way out on my own. Especially one that required a step back in order to move forward.

Have you ever been so involved in your own script” that you cant see clearly what someone on the outside can? 

Fear and emotions block rational thought. Its natural and its human. Its not bad, as long as were aware that its happening.  So, Michael gave me the slack I needed to descend just enough to shift right, keep climbing, and successfully reach the top.

photo by sydney raeThat experience taught me a huge lesson.

When I'm stressed - on a fake mountain or in my business or during a global pandemic - it can put me in a vulnerable position, overcome by emotion. I get stuck, play it safe, retreat, and sometimes give up.  Yet if I allow myself to feel and acknowledge the emotion for what it is, if i have a strong desire to accomplish a goal, and a strong support system in place, I can let go of the obstacle and rest, gain clarity about what I want, and take action to achieve victory.

And when all else fails I listen for the whisper, “I’ve got you. You got this.”

Stacey-Shipman- singingBIO

Stacey Shipman brings out the best in people. She is the creator of Engage The Room ( a marketing resource and networking community for coaches, consultants, and small businesses who want to grow their professional network, promote their work, and thrive in a digital, distracted, data-driven world.

For fun, Stacey writes about women’s leadership and well-being and is currently living out her childhood dream to become a singer. She takes voice lessons (virtually!) through the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, and has performed solo in 3 voice recitals.

Grab her business newsletter, Engage The Room, HERE.