How stressed are you?

“I’m so stressed” is a common phrase these days. It’s true, there are very many facets of modern life that can increase stress levels – not least the fact that almost everything in daily living needs to be achieved at breakneck speed. But what does stress feel like? Are we experiencing, for example, agitation and anxiety? Difficulty sleeping? Are we constantly exhausted to the point that our decision making is impaired? These, indeed, are all indicators of stress. We might also experience constant worry, high blood pressure, an inability to concentrate, sense-of-humour failure, tension headaches and other physical pain, inability to control emotional response, eczema, shingles, frequent colds, asthma and dietary intolerances … That’s a horrible list of things, don’t you think? I once visited a doctor who had a sign on the door that said something like: “If you need to ask if your problem is stress-related, the answer is undoubtedly YES.” So why is stress so harsh on us? Well, it could be because we don’t take any notice of early symptoms. Recognising the symptoms is half the battle, because then we can take action that will help us to cope. And once we take action, we begin to gain control. Gaining control allows us to change some of the ways we might react to stress. So, what to look out for?

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  1. Note down your ‘symptoms’. It’s not always easy to detect change in your own behaviour, but what about the behaviour of others towards you? Has anyone suggested you’re moody, quiet, looking tired, responding unreasonably to something …? Take note of what that might be suggesting. Literally take note. Use the comments as a starting point for how you’re actually feeling and compare those feelings to the ‘real you’. How out of sorts are you?
  2. Establish causes. Try to work out why you might be feeling like you are. Has anything changed recently? Or, actually, has something stayed the same that perhaps should have changed? Try to be honest with yourself. Sitting somewhere quietly, without interruption, can often allow feelings to surface that you can then consider.
  3. Take action. What do you think needs to change? Can you make those changes alone? Is there a specific person you need to talk to? Might that require some kind of mediation? Do you need help, support, advice? Might that be from friends and family, or a professional?

The chances are, having got this far you’ll already be feeling stronger and less stressed. Remember also to be patient with yourself. Take what you need to bring yourself back into balance. Know that you are not alone. Understanding your stress triggers and how you can avoid them, or at least collide with them less often, is a very firm base to work from.

text © free from stress 2013

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