Sometimes it can be hard to tell when you’re stressed. We all react differently and have different stress symptoms ranging from headaches, racing thoughts, muscle tension and insomnia, to acid reflux, acne and hair loss.
Another challenge is figuring out your sources of stress. Some sources are obvious, like losing your job, or going through a break up, but there are less obvious stressors that can contribute to every day feelings of tension, pressure, anxiety and overwhelm.
Having an understanding of your unique stressors can help you to come up with a plan to address them.
There are basic things your body and brain need to function at their best. When your body is deprived of things like sleep, adequate nutrition, physical activity or hydration, it can increase feelings of stress and overwhelm. Consider how you feel and function at work after a good night’s rest, an invigorating workout the day before, and a healthy, filling breakfast; compared with how you feel both physically and mentally when you’re sleepy, hungry and haven’t moved from your work desk in three days.
In an attempt to get more done, it’s tempting to give up sleep, skip the gym, or postpone a meal, but this just makes feelings of stress worse. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember to prioritize physical self-care, both your body and brain will thank you for it.
The impact of this type of stress is often underestimated or unknown. We all have environments we feel good or bad in. Some of us feel relaxed in quiet, cozy spaces, while for others, quiet can have the opposite effect, and the background hum of the TV or music is calming. It’s helpful to be aware of your reactions to environmental factors like noise, temperature, colours and clutter.
Think about the types of spaces you feel best in and make an effort to spend time in them. If you love open, quiet spaces but work in a cramped, loud cubicle all day, then on your way home consider making a detour to the park to sit quietly and recharge. If you’re sensitive to clutter, organize your work and living spaces in a way that promotes calm.
This is the stress that comes from navigating the relationships around us. Interpersonal strain can trigger the stress response, like fights with your partner, the condescending boss at work, an inconsiderate friend, or dealing with a disgruntled customer.
Managing this type of stress can be challenging since we can’t control the behaviour of others. What we can do is to brush up on communication, relationship and interpersonal skills in an attempt to improve strained relationships.
But in cases where you’ve tried your best without success to mend a stressful relationship, know that it’s okay to prioritize your mental, emotional and physical health by limiting or ending contact with offending parties where possible.
This is the stress that arises from internal conflicts that influence how we perceive and interact with the world around us. Maybe you grew up with strict, driven parents who pushed your limits, and now you feel stressed when you encounter a new challenge and worry about succeeding.
Or maybe past experiences with dishonest friends or work colleagues make you feel anxious about building new relationships.
If you’ve noticed that you struggle with personal challenges arising from past experiences, like perfectionism, negative self-talk, poor communication, low self-esteem and confidence, poor relationship skills, or any other personal or life skills, know that you’re not alone.
Don’t underestimate your power to improve these skills with knowledge and practice. With the accessibility of the internet, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips, including articles, books and courses on every topic you can imagine, and even online counselling. Tapping into these resources can help you to increase your resilience and reduce stress.
Alexine Jackman is a Certified Stress Management Consultant, speaker and blogger. She loves sharing ideas for building resiliency and reducing stress on a busy schedule. Her ebook, 5 Minute Meditations For Entrepreneurs: How to stay calm, focused and productive on a busy schedule, is available now.