what is stress and how to identify it
Since we landed on stress as our conscious living theme for March, there has been a lot of talk about what it is and how to identify it. A google search yields many different results, but for our purposes we are defining stress as a physical or mental response to an external cause. To put it simply, it’s a reaction.
Our bodies are designed to handle and process stress in small doses, but when it becomes chronic it can have serious effects on all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Think about how you feel when you are stressed - your body feels tense, your breathing is shallow, your heart races, your stomach might hurt or you may feel nauseous.
Knowing the above, it’s important to recognize how stress shows up for you and identify its causes. How can we change something if we can’t identify it? Our bodies are in constant communication with us - a clenched jaw or pain in your belly could be signaling stress. Oftentimes we don’t even recognize these smaller signals, but when the big ones show up - hair loss, sleeplessness, we pay attention. Imagine if we were able to stop stress from escalating?
Over the next few days we invite you to pay attention to your body and see how stress might be showing up. Once you’ve figured that out - look to see what might be creating that reaction. Is it a tense relationship with a family member? A challenging boss? A situation in which you feel as though you can’t speak up for yourself?
Because each of us are different and we react differently to the same things, coming up with a one size fits all approach to handling stress can be challenging. The good news is that there are some basic things that will assist even the most chronically stressed of us all - starting with awareness and breathing.
So next time you find yourself in a stressful situation instead of inviting the “This is so stressful, ugh, I can’t believe this is happening” reaction in, try pausing and taking 5 deep breaths instead. Count to 4 as you inhale and then count to 4 as you exhale. Release any tension you are holding and repeat after us “This too shall pass.” Because you know what? It will.