If you’ve ever run on a backwoods trail, you know how treacherous it can be. If you’re not careful, you can trip on a tree root or hit a gopher hole and wipe out. Where I live, you can even end up going over the edge of a cliff.

When your environment is so chaotic that you have to focus all your attention on stability and survival, everything else gets pretty much blanked out. Creative, innovative or critical thinking are the furthest things from your mind. I’m not just talking about trail running, but for running anything: your career, your business or your life.

The human mind will always prioritize what it perceives to be survival threats ahead of everything else. And that’s a good thing. If it didn’t, none of us would be here. Note the keyword “perceives.” Perception is very different for different people.

Some of us feel threatened, fearful or anxious at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t take much for our minds to become overloaded by emotional stimuli and essentially shut down. Others become so accustomed to the adrenaline rush of the fight or flight response that they can still think clearly and make solid decisions under stress.

Each of our environments are also different. Some of us have more stressful jobs or lead more chaotic lives. In my experience, much of that is self-inflicted.

Regardless, how you react to emotional stress affects you in profound ways. It affects your work, your relationships and your health. Something to consider when you feel anxious, blocked or out of sorts. Is the cause external or internal? What’s your reaction when it happens? You might want to spend a little quality time with yourself to understand what’s going on.

Image credit Eduardo Metinger via Flickr