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Your Personal Stress Signals

What stresses you out? 

The things that stress me out may not stress you out at all. 

I get stressed when I am under time pressure, when I haven’t had time to prepare, or when I have to deal with technical or computer issues.  I do not get stressed when speaking to large groups of people, teaching or giving workshops.  Yet for some people the thought of public speaking sets their hearts racing and their palms sweaty.

Recognizing what creates stress for you is important so you can find ways to reduce, manage or eliminate the stress before it becomes chronic over time.  

Anything that forces us to adjust or adapt in some way is considered stress.  Stress is not bad unless it becomes distressful to our thinking, our behaviors, and our every day living. 

We do not have control over many things. But we do have the ability to choose a different way to respond to events. 

The things that create distress in our lives are often attached to our beliefs and perceptions about what we can and cannot do, our expectations, our assumptions, our rules of should, ought and must. I have to get this done by this time, I should be able to do this, I ought to have a promotioni by now. 

Recognizing Your levels of Stress:

Listen to your body. Our bodies are constantly adjusting. Do periodic body checks.  Is your neck or shoulders or lower back hurting? Take a break and do some gentle stretches and quick stress releases. 

Listen to your feelings. If you are having fewer moments of enjoyment and peace and your moods are becoming unpredictable and more irritable you may be suffering from distress.

Listen to your spirit. Apathy, cynicism, loss of meaning and purpose  are all symptoms of stress overload. Cynicism is one of the highest risks for stress related health problems.

Listen to your relationships. When your irritability level rises, it is probably time to look at your attitude, expectations, assumptions, rigid rules, etc that is driving your moods and attitudes.

Do a quick stress symptom check 

Make a list of all the symptoms you are experiencing physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and relational. Nancy Loving Tubesing and Donald A. Tubesing have put together a Stress Exhaustion Symptoms check list. Get a copy and take the test. Here are some of the symptoms they list plus others: 

Physical symptoms:

Weight gain/loss, appetite or digestion problems, headaches, constant tension in muscles, teeth grinding, restlessness, racing heart, cold hands and feet, always sick.

Mental symptoms:

Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, bad dreams, lack of worth, negative attitude, poor concentration, forgetfulness and confusion, worry, underlying fear and anxiety.

Spiritual symptoms:

A loss of meaning and purpose, lack of joy, laughter or happiness in your life. Loss of faith, hope and peace. Cynical. Resentment and long standing grievances have replaced forgiveness. No church affililation or connection to people in a faith community.  Little to no bible reading or prayers. God has been excluded from your life.

Relational symptoms:

Lack of friends, lack of intimacy, distrust, irritability with those around us, communication breakdowns, moody, anger, blaming and fault finding,  misunderstandings, judgments, aggressiveness and ongoing tension.

What on your list is the most troubling?  Which ones affect you day in and day out?  Which ones do you want to work on first? 

Next week’s blog will give you suggestions to problem solve some of these trouble spots in your life and find ways you can reduce or eliminate them. 

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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