What is stress
We understand that stress is a normal part of life; we all experience stress and in small amounts, it can be good for us. Stress is a physical and emotional response we have to internal or external stimuli. Stressors can be anything from work or school deadlines, loss of work or income, major life changes such as loss of a loved one, or a new addition to the family. It can also be caused by internal thoughts or perceptions we have about ourselves or our situation. When we perceive stress, our body releases the hormone cortisol into our bloodstream. This causes the fight, flight, or freeze response which cues us to potential danger. Stress can also give us the push we need to be productive. When the intensity and frequency of stress persists over a long period of time, it becomes chronic stress. This can lead to potential health issues. Thus, keeping our stress levels in check is critical to our overall health and wellbeing.
Typical signs of stress
Some typical signs of stress may include:
● Trouble sleeping
● Loss of appetite
● Muscle aches
● Increase or decrease in appetite
● Anxious thoughts
The first step in managing stress is to recognize when you have reached your limit. What are your warning signs that you are carrying too much stress? How do you know? We all hold stress differently and the warning signs may look different for each person. You may notice physical signs in your body, or changes in your emotions, thoughts, or interactions with others.
Over the years I have learned some of my warning signs. When I am stressed out, I become irritable, experience trouble sleeping, and more difficulty concentrating than usual. When my partner tells me that usually hilarious joke and I roll my eyes instead of laugh and engage, I know it’s time for me to do a self-check-in.
Recognizing your Indicators of stress
With any emotion, we must first recognize the feeling is there, this gives us some control in how we react, instead of getting swept away by it. Doing a quick self-check-in a couple of times a week can really help you get in touch with how you are feeling and how your mood changes. It also allows you to tune in to your inner thoughts and check for any stress warning signs before things start to boil over. One way to do this is to take a few minutes out of your day and find a quiet place where you can be still and reflect on your feelings. Do you notice anything in your body? Any tight muscles or aches? Are there any thoughts or worries that have been popping up for you today? Write in a journal or make a mental note. Try to do this at least every other day.
Keeping track of your mood is the first step in taking control of your mental health. We carve time out of our day to maintain our physical health. Just like brushing our teeth, good emotional hygiene is equally important. After all, your brain is part of your body. So don’t forget to take the time to check in with yourself!