How to start identifying your stress clues
Stress is an inevitable part of life that we all experience at some point in time. It is a natural response to any perceived threat, challenge or change that we encounter in our lives. However, stress can be both healthy and unhealthy, depending on the situation and how we deal with it.
Healthy stress, also known as eustress, is a type of stress that can be beneficial for our physical and mental health. It is a temporary state of arousal that helps us to stay focused, alert and motivated with the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. For example, when we are preparing for an exam or a presentation, the stress we feel can help us to perform better and improve our performance.
Healthy stress can also provide us with a sense of accomplishment, which can boost our self-confidence and self-esteem. When we overcome a challenging situation or achieve a goal, we feel a sense of pride and satisfaction, which can have a positive impact on our mental health.
The key is that healthy stress is beneficial on a short-term basis. In small doses, the stress of a new job, new relationship or forthcoming presentation or event can help drive us forward and thrive.
However, when the stress response becomes frequent and we hold on to it for too long, our body is unable to de-regulate and bring itself back into balance. Our stress hormone levels remain high and this can lead to unhealthy stress.
Unhealthy stress, also known as distress, is a type of stress that can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. It is a chronic state of arousal on a frequent basis that can cause a range of negative symptoms, including anxiety, depression, irritability, and physical health problems.
The causes of unhealthy stress can be a range of factors, including work pressure, financial difficulties, relationship problems, and health issues. When we experience chronic stress, our body’s natural stress response system can become overworked, leading to a range of negative health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
One factor that compounds this situation is our tendency to stack more and more stress in our lives from both daily and past experiences. This is known as ‘stress stacking’. Rather than confronting the root causes of stress, we just pile more financial, relationship, health and emotional issues on top of each other, thinking we can cope, until we experience a stress explosion – a moment when we snap, want to quit or get angry and react aggressively or irrationally.
Managing stress through greater body awareness:
One way to manage unhealthy stress is to become aware of the level at which you are experiencing stress in your body, mind and heart and how this affects your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Sophrology is a great way to learn to pause, zoom out and understand where stress is showing up in your mind, body and heart. Through breathing exercises, gentle tension release movements, meditation and visualisations, you start to increase your self-awareness.
By learning to calm the mind and listen to what the body is telling you, you begin to pick up on the clues that appear in your thoughts, feelings and actions when you are stressed. These could be gut issues, increased heart rate or a sense of fear, overwhelm, anxiety or shame.
Once you gain awareness of the clues, you learn to identify what they are telling you through your sense of intuition. Listening to your gut instinct, rather than the questions and perceptions the mind wants to give you, allows you to get an instant insight into what needs to change in order for you to make a difference to your wellbeing.
Sophrology enables you to just sit with these clues, free from judgement, and accept both the good and bad feelings. Life is never straightforward, there will always be ups and downs and finding a healthy balance is important.
By accepting the clues and learning what is serving you and what you need to change, you become empowered to start making the differences that will reduce your overall exposure to unhealthy stress.