Generally, stress is a response to an external cause, such as a tight deadline at work or school or an argument with a friend. Stress can subside once the situation has been resolved, and because stress is caused by external factors, tackling these head on can help.
HOWEVER, if you are experiencing prolonged, everyday pressures that start to become the norm for you, then they may not immediately trigger your thoughts about the presence of stress, but they may very likely be triggering your physical fight-or-flight reaction. These are real, chemical reactions that take a physical and mental toll when there’s no respite from your stressors.
THE GOOD NEWS is that there are methods you can use to recognize early on if stress is present for you BEFORE it escalates into more intense symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sleeplessness, inability to focus, feeling overwhelmed or irritable.
AND there are many solutions to ease its impact, some of which are immediate, while others take a bit more time and planning.
Let's get you started on your emotional wellbeing journey with these simple and immediate ways to recognize if you’re stressed and quick solutions so you can calm it before it overtakes you.
3-Ways to Notice Sooner If You’re Stressed
Challenged with Decision Making: Whether you notice that you’re having trouble deciding what to have for lunch or whether to make a life-altering change like applying for a new job or changing your major, being under stress can cause your brain to act in weird ways.
You may simply write off your inability to make small decisions throughout your day, but a 2012 article published in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science showed that stress changes how people make decisions.
Try to take note if you are struggling with making decisions more so than what you’d consider to be your norm.
Check in with your breathing: Because stress affects your body before your thoughts can become aware of it, checking in with your breathing is an effective early indicator of stress.
Typically, when you’re under stress or feeling anxious, you take small, shallow breaths, using your shoulders rather than your diaphragm to move air in and out of your lungs.
So, take less than a minute every few hours to check in with your breathing. Pause, and ask yourself “how is my breathing?”. And then take notice if you’re taking shallow breaths or deep belly breaths.
Check in with how your body is feeling: As with your breathing, checking in with how your body is feeling is an effective early indicator of stress. The release of cortisol (stress hormone) can create subtle sensations in your body like tightness in your muscles or a feeling of heaviness.
So, take less than a minute a few times a day to take a “Body Scan” break. Turn your attention to inward and notice how your body is feeling. Do you feel tightness or a heaviness in your throat, chest or solar plexus? Even if it’s ever so subtle, this could be a sign that stress is present.
So now that you’ve recognized stress bubbling up...
3-Quick Ways to STOP STRESS in Its Tracks
Give yourself a hand massage: As soon as your skin’s nerve cells feel pressure, they signal the brain to release feel good chemicals called endorphins, which boost your mood and give you a natural high.
Hands in general can carry a lot of tension, so giving yourself a massage can release that tension as an added plus. Take 1 - 2 minutes to apply some lotion and start kneading the base of the muscle under your thumb, which in turn can actually relieve stress in your shoulders, neck and scalp.
Laugh, laugh and laugh some more: When we laugh, it lightens our mental load AND causes beneficial physical changes in our body. Laughter actually cools down our stress response; soothes tension and aids in muscle relaxation. Plus, laughter triggers the release of those “feel good” endorphins.
So, take a break for a few minutes and find your favorite sit-com clip or comedian on YouTube and get your laugh on.
De-stress with Lavender: A university study has shown that putting lavender oil on a cotton ball and breathing it in for just 5 minutes, drops your cortisol level (stress hormone) by over 69%.
Provided you don’t have any allergy concerns, this is a fast and proven way to begin relaxing your body AND soothing your stress.
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When you need help to work through stress control in your life, contact Beliefs Transformed or schedule a free 30-minute Worry Less & Relax More consultation with Susan here: https://www.beliefstransformed.com/book-to-cultivate-your-calm-today