To easily understand (not that its always easy to) stress we can break it down into 3 pillars – mental, physical and emotional. When we talk about stress causes we often think of deadlines that need to be met, upcoming life events or things that worry us from a personal or even professional level. However, not all stress is equal, it doesn’t affect us all the same way and we all deal with it differently.
Although we all need a bit of stress in our lives it can become a fine line before it shifts to become problematic and hard to get under control. Believe it or not, some stress can actually be good.
Eustress, the good kind of stress.
Eustress is beneficial to us and is known as feelings of excitement and causes a chemical reaction in our body. The type of stress you may feel when you’re about to move house, have a baby or present at an event. Your body becomes alert, focused and energised. A feeling of excitable energy, that is your eustress kicked in.
Distress, the stress we want to control.
The same chemical reaction occurs as eustress but instead distress causes feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and negativity. We often feel overwhelmed, unable to focus on tasks and feel incapable of the tasks we face. You may have experienced this as a feeling when you’re never really on top of things and our mind is telling us we have a lot to achieve or tasks to do.
Why are the majority of us stressed?
On one hand we can thank the modern world for making some things in life easier – think smart phones, smart watches, social media but on the same hand it can make us more stressed.
The smart phone has now allowed us to be reachable any time, any where by anyone.
Alarming alerts are set to remind us of things to do, places to be or waking up.
We can ask an assistant the answer to any question that pops in our head, but is that a good thing? We have the ability to have more information than we know what to do with.
We can watch and interact with people we admire, but maybe we then start to compare ourselves to people we have never met and may never meet.
It’s no wonder our lives have become so stressed and the feelings of overwhelm or being on edge about family, financial pressures, work, global issues, health, wellness and we can’t forget – the pandemic.
A day or two of these feelings can usually be managed but longer term short term stress becomes chronic stress and it can be difficult to relax and find inner peace or calm.
Ways to know if you are reaching your stress limit.
Check in with yourself often. Ask yourself 3 simple questions and rate the answer by: always, often, hardly ever.
- Do I find it difficult to relax at the end of the day?
- Is my sleep being impacted due to my daily stress?
- Am I easily agitated or annoyed by simple things?
If you find yourself answering these questions with always or often then you may need to take a look at some stress management strategies. My stop, evaluate and de-stress techniques may help to reduce and manage feelings of stress.
Stop what you are doing, press the pause button on your thoughts and actions, especially when you are feeling these common signs.
- Teeth clenched or tightening of the jaw
- Shallow or quick breathing
- Easily irritated
- Tight feelings in the stomach – especially lower abdomen
- Negative thoughts
Questions to ask yourself:
- What is the most important thing I need to solve right now?
- Did I sleep well last night?
- What am I feeling right now?
- What physical sensations am I aware of (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell)
(try one of these coping strategies and see which works best for you)
- Take a short walk, away from your current situation or stressful environment.
- Get a glass of water or cup of herbal tea
- Breathe deep – Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out. Repeat for one to two minutes.
- Take supplements to support you. Naturally calming herbs like kava, passion flower or magnesium will give quick relief in stressful situations.
Before we can de-stress we need to evaluate the situation and recognise the signs. Stopping in the moment before small stresses become chronic will benefit our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.