(Photo from Instagram, by @kate.lavie)
This may sound a little counterintuitive, but sometimes I can’t even tell when I’m stressed out. (I know, it’s one of my super-powers.)
For some people, it is instantly apparent to them when they are overwhelmed or stressed out. This is not the case for me. My stress has more of an insidious onset, slowly and over time. I think it’s party my fault; I may have conditioned myself to do so.
For example, when stressful events happen, “I keep telling myself, IT’S FINE, EVERYTHING IS FINE!” Until one day, it is clearly not fine anymore.
I think a lot of people share this “all or nothing” mentality with me. I am SO emotionally healthy for a few months. I’m a goddamn pillar of emotional stability. I’m journaling, challenging irrational thoughts, communicating with my partner like a boss, etc.
Then I’ll fall off for a couple weeks…which turns into a couple of months. Then all of the signs start reappearing… and one day WHAM. Oh, what’s up panic attack?
The reason this is a problem is: if I’m taking each stressful event in stride and properly handling it, there is no build up. No build up = no crash.
In order to avoid this super fun stress-crash, one must be in tune with their body (physically and mentally) and have the ability to stay present. This is hard sometimes. We’re all busy, bad things happen, great things happen, we move, we change jobs, etc. (How can we practice mindfulness? See this blog)
Here are some clues that you’re stressed and need to engage in some serious self-care:
- 1. It doesnt take as much to upset you
- When frivolous things start to bother me that I would normally be able to shake off, this is a clue. My emotional tolerance plummets. This can the form of me feeling rage over something seemingly innocuous with my husband, or maybe getting offended by what someone said when normally I could just brush off.
- Are you being particularly road rage-y lately? Did you just get pissed off at the grocery lady for taking too long to bag your groceries? Are you picking fights with people you love?
- Chronic stress = chronically being on edge.
- 2. You’re noticing changes in your body
- I’m a stress under-eater. Instead of stress eating, I stress don’t-eat. Over time, my body is like “WHOA, where is my nourishment?” and I don’t feel as strong and healthy. Also, my immune system isn’t able to fight off small things, so healing takes even longer.
- Stress can also take the form of weight gain or weight loss, so if you’re noticing a weird trend on your scale, it could be a sign that you’re super stressed.
- 3. Having to make decisions becomes an enormous task
- When I’m stressed, something as small as picking a shoe to wear seems like an insurmountable task.
- When we’re stressed, we don’t know which way is up or down. We have so much internal stimuli that it’s difficult to sort through the fog and see things for what they are. This makes us anxious that we will make the wrong decision. Therefore, we just make no decision at all! (Not advisable).
- 4. “I just can’t” becomes your favorite phrase
- Small tasks that would usually require very little effort suddenly seem IMPOSSIBLE.
- Doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, putting air in your tires, paying bills…all of the things we NEED to do that normally don’t require a ton of effort are suddenly verrrrryyy easy to put off.
- When you’re really stressed, even doing things you enjoy or spending time with people you love becomes a burden.
- Attn: Introverts – Humans are social creatures, and being an introvert doesn’t mean you would rather spend your whole life in your apartment alone for the rest of your life. If this sounds appetizing, something’s up.
- The main thing to remember here is this: If the reward of doing something you love no longer outweighs the effort it takes to do it, you’re out of whack.
- 5. Wine bottles keep getting better looking
- We all (myself included) like to indulge in something that allows us to let off some steam from time to time, whether that’s a glass of wine, a joint, chocolate cake…pick your poison.
- While this isn’t necessarily advised, most things in moderation are okay.
- If you’re “letting off some steam” nightly, with reckless abandon, you’re stressed. Essentially, you’re subconsciously believing that you can’t handle whatever life is throwing at you without a substance to numb yourself. No bueno.