Have you ever been told you need to ‘manage your stress’? Had a health problem put down to ‘being stressed’? Or are you always tired, anxious and can’t sleep?
Stress is one of the most common human experiences. There is acute stress- think sweaty palms, adrenaline shakes and butterflies in your tummy just before public speaking. And then there is longer term, or chronic stress, more to do with tight shoulders (leading to poor posture and headaches), lack of sleep (your brain is on alert, it’s like trying to sleep on the edge of a cliff) and hormonal issues (because you body prioritises your stress hormones and leaves others lacking).
We have talked before about what long term stress can do to your body, but today is about how to identify and manage your stress.
To identify your stress, it can help to break it down to 3 life areas- Physical, Chemical and Emotional.
Physical stress can include:
Emotional stress is a little more self-explanatory. Any emotions that we feel can add to the stress response of your body, especially fear, anger, worry, pressure, concern, any past events that still affect you. These can be from work, family, home, friends, any part of your life.
Managing your stress can be tricky, but well worth it in the long run. If you have ever been told to ‘reduce your stress’ and are looking for a little direction, read carefully below.
Naming and being aware of where your emotional stress is coming from can be a huge starting point. This can help you change your behaviours, e.g. who you spend time with, or help you identify a need for professional help to work through your emotions. Often, we can feel frustrated and irritable, but not be able to see why. Therefore, looking at your stressors can be so beneficial to your emotional wellbeing.
As well as seeing external stress, being able to calm your mind can help too. This can be done in many ways, and everyone will find something that works for them. Some ways to calm the busy brain are:
Chemical stresses are a little more about trial and error. Some chemical stressors will give an obvious reaction- a rash, an upset tummy. Other symptoms can come on later, like headaches, aches, mood/behaviour issues. When trying to reduce your chemical stressors, be kind to yourself, as these can often be quite big lifestyle changes. Changing your cleaning products not so much, but any changes to diet etc can be hard to get started and keep up in the longer term. So, the key word here is ‘reduce’ rather than ‘eliminate’- work to reduce your chemical stress to take the pressure off your body.
Physical stress only requires an awareness of our body to pick up. Notice when your shoulders are starting to feel tight, when your low back has started to stiffen from sitting too long, when your wrist is getting sore from holding your phone. Pain and discomfort are your body’s way of letting you know that something is going on and you need to alter your position or activity. Everyone’s limits for certain activities will be different, so it is about listening to the subtle cues your body is giving you before they become overwhelming.
By addressing the physical, chemical and emotional components to your stress, you can take a lot of built up pressure and tension off your body and its processes. When you are stressed, your body and mind will focus on these stressors to the exclusion of all else. This is often a slow, gradual process taking many years, so if you can reduce these stressors now your body will be thanking you in years to come.
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