Various situations, people, and environments can cause stress even if we are not fully aware of it. Brief encounters with stress do not typically cause harm because our brain is equipped to handle it. However consistent tension can take a physical and mental toll. Knowing how we react is an important way to pinpoint when and where we are experiencing distress. This information will also help to develop coping strategies that will influence the way we respond. Response awareness is the key to managing stress.
Some of the common physical signs of stress include increased heart rate, headaches, fatigue, lack of sleep, and changes in eating habits. These responses are our minds’ way of telling our body to prepare to fight or to take flight. I recognize stress when I feel tightness in my back, chest, or in my stomach. Immediately I start to review the events of the day and recent encounters and can usually recognize the factors contributing to the pain. If I think its stress related I take a few deep breaths, which works to calm me down. When in an obvious stress inducing situation, I ask for a moment to step away. In an argument, for example, the best way to work toward a solution is to separate your emotions from what is really going on. Taking a walk relaxes the body and gives your mind another outlet.
Sometimes we experience stress and do not even realize it. Recently I have been waking up with a headache and pain in my jaw. I already know this happens when I grind my teeth in my sleep. I also know that is a tell tale sign I am stressed about something. Other than the world’s current turmoil I can admit I am truly blessed and have very little to worry about. But something is triggering a stressful response. When you are not sure what exactly is causing your stress shift your investigation to the mind.
Frustrating situations may first show physically but they actually start in the brain. Instinctually our mind prepares us by increasing the release of hormones that prepares the body to react in our defense. Continued exposure to these triggers without learning to cope can result in anxiety and depression. These conditions may worsen affecting our quality of life. Before even getting to this point we can learn to recognize our triggers and try some stress reducing techniques.
- Keep a note pad near and jot down events that triggered a stressful response. At the end of the day set aside time to read it over and make a plan on dealing with the situation if it happens again.
- Talk things over with a family member or friend. Getting a point of view from someone else can help you come up with alternative solutions.
- Do an activity that can reset your thought process. Meditation as well as any form of physical movement will work to clear your thoughts. Once the endorphins kick in and you are in a better mindset revisit the details of the stress. With a clear mind you may recognize something about the trigger that diminishes or eliminates its influence on your reactions.
- If the toll stress takes on your body and mind becomes overwhelming, or you find various techniques unhelpful, consult a professional. Psychologists can help pinpoint the source of stress and provide effective ways of managing stress that best suites your lifestyle and needs.
Stress is unavoidable but how we respond is controllable. Do not dismiss what your body and mind are trying to tell you. Give both the tools needed to keep you well protected. Most importantly do not hesitate to ask for help.
I am grateful for a new day, for the relief I feel with every exhale, and all of life’s challenges that make me a stronger person. What are you grateful for?
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