I do whole talks on Recognising Stress Early, but here are some of the key things I’ve learned. Most definitions of stress talk about too much emotional or physical pressure.
There is also a definition for biological stress:
“when an organism (such as you or me) responds inappropriately to threats.”
So if for example, I am threatened by a large tiger and have an adrenaline packed fight (for my life) or flight (run for my life) response, that would be considered an appropriate response. If I have the same reaction to; a spider that runs across my floor, or realising I’m about to miss a work deadline, it’s an inappropriate response – because my life isn’t threatened. There is nothing to fight with, or run for my life from.
Most of us don’t perceive our life is threatened day by day. But, many of us do have fight, flight and freeze responses to modern day stresses.
And that is really bad for our health.
We flood our bodies with stress hormones that, because we have nothing to fight or run from, we have no use for. They remain in our systems and we remain stressed. This can impair our immune system, cause high blood pressure and bring on many physical ailments and illnesses. Not to mention panic attacks, memory problems and exhaustion. Sometimes we are so accustomed to a stress, we just don’t recognise it.
So, I have my own definition of stress:
“Stress is anything that has an adverse effect on how you are thinking, how you are feeling emotionally, what you are experiencing physically, and what you are doing. ”
But stress doesn’t always come from something we perceive as negative. Sometimes the stress can be the excitement of a new job. During my first shift on the Air Ambulance I felt excited and a little apprehensive too, but I was loving my job. However, my pulse rate was almost double its normal rate for the entire shift. My heart was behaving as though I was doing a physical workout for 10 to 12 hours, and when you think of it like that you can recognise the stress potential.
Recognising stress early
The key to recognising stress early is to take a moment to stop and notice: am I holding any tension in my body, what am I thinking about, what am I experiencing physically and emotionally, and what am I doing or how am I behaving. We need to consciously observe ourselves, and the more often we do this, the more tuned in to our own stress responses we become.
It’s helpful to understand that what is fine one day, might stress us out on another. Stress can add up incrementally, as in the saying ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’.
Once we recognise stress, we need strategies to manage or release it. Breathing techniques are excellent. So are; exercise you enjoy, taking a break, meditating, relaxation techniques, EFT – tapping, stretching, talking to a friend. The list is endless. Find the ones that work best for you.
Life is sometimes very stressful. Sometimes for reasons we are powerless to change. There may be times when we need to ask for help. If we remain unconscious of stress, or ignore it for long enough (even for the best of reasons), we suffer physically and emotionally. Recognising stress early means we can develop strategies and take action to manage it and release it, we empower ourselves.
If you’d like to talk about ways to manage stress, or book one of my talks please
get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.