Stress is our body’s way of reacting to a demand or threat. With the hustle and bustle of living in the 21st Century, it’s almost a given that each day we expose ourselves to an event that causes stress.
The tricky thing about stress is that it tends to creep up on us.
We often don’t understand that we’ve been stressed until the stress subsides, or we have a catastrophic event that finally enlightens us to the fact that we’ve been stressed. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
I recall back in 2006 when I was sitting on exam table at our local Urgent Care facility after I’d fainted at the office an hour prior. That was the first time that I became aware of how stressed of a person I’d been.
I didn’t realize how much of an epidemic stress was – the physician told me that 75% of the women between the ages of 18 and 35 that he sees each day during office visits, were there due to stress symptoms or a stress-induced illness.
At first when I heard that number I didn’t believe it. Nearly 12 years later, I can’t believe that it’s not a higher percentage. We are a stressed culture.
Having dealt with health scares due to stress has unfortunately forced me to be more cognizant about the common and not so common signs and symptoms that go along with it.
Common Physical Signs and Symptoms of Stress:
- Muscle Tension
- Upset Stomach
- Grinding Teeth
- Feeling Dizzy or nauseous
- Frequent colds or flu
Beyond the physical ailments caused by stress, we’ll start to notice emotional symptoms as well:
- Feeling unhappy and/or overwhelmed
Many people turn to a “vice” to cope with stress. Examples of behavioral changes due to stress would be:
- Eating more or less
- Using Alcohol
- Smoking (cigarettes or drugs)
As the stress builds, these “small” ailments start to become more and more prevalent and turn into major health issues like:
- Digestive Problems (IBS)
- Thinking and memory issues
- Sleep Problems
- Weight Problems
- Panic Disorders
- Chronic Pain or Autoimmune Disorders (Arthritis/Fibromyalgia)
I’d be wonderful to say that X, Y, and Z are the tried and true things that lead to stress… however that isn’t always the case.
There are several things we need to take into consideration when talking about the way we become stressed and the way we manage it. This evaluation is unique to each one of us. We must analyze our stress vulnerability, stress tolerance, stress triggers and stress management system. Our personality, the kind of stress we are trying to relieve, and the way we tend to handle stress ALL factor into our stress management system. Who knew stress was so complicated, huh!
STRESS VULNERABILITY: Ties together our personality, past experiences and genetics.
STRESS TOLERANCE: Our unique turning point when stress goes from feeling good and increasing our performance to being counterproductive.
STRESS TRIGGERS: Is a unique blend of environment, habits, social norms, and life circumstances that are specific and unique to you.
The next step is to understand what we can do to build awareness surrounding our stress management systems. In short, it means — what in the world do we do to efficiently and effectively manage stress?
Again, how we manage stress is unique to us all. This is a good time to remind everyone that not all stress is bad (I certainly don’t want to give that impression).
We have a fight or flight response built into our nervous system specifically to navigate stressful situations… so we have tools to manage stress. What we’re discussing today has more to do with chronic, unnecessary stress that we rarely take time to address – which continues to build and ends up causing physical or mental health issues.
Mindfulness has become a widely-known term in the mental health community as a means of dealing with stress. I’ve always identified with mindfulness as anything that brings me back to the present moment.
Common Mindfulness Activities Include:
- Deep Breathing
- Adult Coloring
- Sitting in Silence
It’s up to each of us to find the mindfulness activity that resonates with us the most. Possibly it’s a combination of 2 or 3 activities that help to reduce your level of stress and those pesky feelings of overwhelm. I’ve found that deep breathing, walking, sitting in silence and writing help to keep me centered and focused.
As you continue to explore your stress management systems, you should start to experience additional levels of clarity and focus in your life. Furthermore, stress reduction typically improves creativity, increases happiness and provides a level of fulfillment and excitement about life that a stressed person typically doesn’t get to experience.
You will never be able to eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you.
If you feel that stress has a hold on you and you’re in a season of life where you’re ready to start learning how to build your stress management systems, then reach out to the Get Good coaches via our Contact page for a free consultation to learn more about your Stress Profile and 1:1 Coaching Opportunities.