I’ve lived in Miami long enough not to freak out when the forecasters say we’re expecting a hurricane. But when Hurricane Irma was on its way last September, I became slightly unhinged. Okay, maybe more than “slightly.” I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t focus, couldn’t do anything remotely useful. I just paced around my condo, nonstop. Finally my husband called my best friend and said, “You have to talk to Jen because she’s behaving like a caged animal.”

“Caged animal” is not how people usually describe me. I like to think I’m pretty zen most times—I meditate and I exercise. And I spend my days urging my colleagues to incorporate more of that into their lives. “Well-being” is in my job title!

So what sent me off the rails?

My husband and I looked for clues, but nothing extraordinary had happened to me in the weeks before the hurricane arrived. I wasn’t under any significant stress. Since we couldn’t figure out what caused it, we couldn’t make it go away. Eventually the storm passed and so did my stress.

And then we realized: the hurricane was the first stressor since a rather extended period of stress that had ended ten months earlier, when I completed my treatment for breast cancer.

I had some unfinished business built up in me, some stress I hadn’t dealt with in the many months of treatment—when I did my best to convey an “I’ve got this” attitude. It was my body, after all, so somehow I felt like I was in control. But the hurricane—I had zero control over that. And I freaked.

My husband hit the nail on the head when he said, “You went through nine months of cancer treatment like a rock star, and that cancer could have killed you. This hurricane is just inconvenient.”

Yep, my response made absolutely no sense. Except if you know about something scientists call the Region Beta Paradox.

I discovered it post-hurricane when I was searching for explanations. When bad things happen, they cross a threshold and trigger mechanisms that help us cope. But the smaller stressors often don’t push us over that threshold. For instance, you can cope with delivering a very important project for a high-profile client, but when your local coffee shop messes up your latte order, you blow up.

We can’t always prevent those explosions before they happen. But what we can do is try to understand why we do it, and be more forgiving to ourselves and others.

That was the lesson that I learned. Just because I had battled cancer doesn’t mean that I am immune to smaller stressors. And I shouldn’t give myself a hard time for “sweating the small stuff”.

So when you see someone blow up at a barista because their coffee order is wrong, remember that stress does not follow rules, and our response to it isn’t always rational. So be gentle with yourself—and with the people in your life, too. 


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well" @jenfisher.substack.com.