Stress manifests itself in all sorts of different, often unnoticed ways. The mind plays tricks on us when we are too caught up to examine our emotional state. A crucial component of wellness is mindfulness, by becoming more aware of your particular stress signals-- we can take a break before we have a breakdown.
My Stress Signals:
For me, the first sign of stress lies in my relationship to food. My hunger cues are completely out of whack. Sometimes, I find myself eating twice as much as I normally would. This has been a lifelong pattern of mine, and since realizing this I have become much more mindful about my eating patterns. This has enabled me to maintain a healthy weight.
I have noticed that when I don’t give myself breaks-- I snack more. Eating is productive and when I’m stressed out, I find that I need to justify stepping away from my work. This is especially true whenever I am tired because food gives me an energy boost regardless of whether I actually do not need to eat or not. I believe that it’s healthy to stress eat to a degree, often when we are in times of stress, we are super active. Also occasionally indulging in some comfort food is definitely not the worst coping mechanism; it may even add some joy to your day.
The second sign I notice is physical symptoms. I lose a lot more hair than usual, my muscles are tense, and my menstrual cycle is off. If I’m being mindful, these signs make me slow down and lessen my stress level. I realize that something is off and that I need to take better care of myself. In times of major stress where my mind seems completely disconnected from my body: I experience psychosomatic symptoms. I feel lethargic to the degree that I question whether or not I have a cold. When this happens, I know that it’s really time for me to slow down.
If I choose to not slow down-- I find that I become extremely unproductive in an attempt to be productive. What I mean by that is: I don’t have the time to do anything. This isn’t true and does nothing but cause me to procrastinate which results in more stress. I look down at my to-do list apathetically and believe that it can’t be done. I stare down at the list, my body and mind shaking with anxiety wondering: Where do I even begin?
Here’s my strategy:
I take a break. Even though I don’t have “time” for it. I then prioritize my tasks and take a moment to strategize the best way to complete them. If I realize that I have taken on too much, I tell myself: “Everything’s going to be okay.” I then find a way to lighten my load.
By letting go of perfectionism, and adjusting my expectations appropriately-- I am better able to do the things I have to. This process also allows me to notice the things on the list that I don’t actually have to do-- but that my stressed-out self decided must be done.
It’s time to find your stress signals too!