Think you’re coping fine with those seven reports due next week? Author Benjamin Bonetti brings you the unexpected signs stress is getting the better of you
One of the things I have learned from years of dealing with people under long-term pressure is that they can rarely spot the signs of stress in their behaviour. The good news is that stress is a natural state that enhances our senses, and with a little practice can be used to our advantage. But we need to identify the triggers at a conscious level to ensure it’s fully under our control and not affecting our performance or health. It makes logical sense that anyone serious about reducing stress levels to take the action necessary to reduce it as leaving stress levels high for the long haul increases the chances of heart attacks, increased blood pressure, migraines, skin conditions and depression. You might not necessarily spot the signs of stress in yourself so I have done that for you. Here are 7 surprising signs you’re really stressed and exactly what to do to change it.
- Your ability to deal with loved ones reduces
You become snappy and uninterested in others’ lives, often belittling anything that excites them and seeing other people as time wasters.
Fix it: until your stress levels are reduced, take some extra time before replying or re-acting to situations, ask yourself if your response will positively support your relationship, and on a scale of 1-10, how stress is contributing factor to that response. Ask yourself: ‘Am I responding or reacting?’ The goal is to move mrs often towards the former and that’s best done by taking time to think before you act.
2. You become overly focused on monetary success
As a result your tolerance levels are reduced when dealing with colleagues or peers; you may alienate yourself from relationships that once stood in good rapport.
Fix it: before arriving to work, spend a few moments visualising the situations and any confrontations that maybe on the horizon. As you do see how relaxed and calm you are, and feel all of the positive confident emotions flowing through your body. If and when the anticipated event arises remind yourself of the rehearsed vision, and take a deep breath. If you feel the need, count to 10 before responding to emails, text or any other form of communication.
You see food-on-the-go an acceptable alternative and turn to caffeine, sugar or alcohol to cope. You feel you’re too stressed to take the time to find alternatives.
Fix it: prepare your lunch the night before. A healthy packed lunch may not seem like an exciting choice but diet is the largest contributing factor when it comes to the effective management of stress – what you eat is what you will become. During stressful times it’s essential that you feed your body with high levels of minerals and vitamins that support your stress free state. Try to really cut back on caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake – these put undue pressure on your adrenal glands which help you fight stress. When these are drained your ability to fight stress reduces and you’re more at risk of experiencing the long term effects of stress including extreme fatigue and depression.
- You wake in the small hours
Waking up with a jolt around 3am is your body’s way of dealing with a stressful period. That’s because it releases a jolt of adrenaline at that time to help you cope. Alternatively, you may lay awake at night, utilising technology to overcome the feeling of boredom. But the light emitted from tablets and phone screens can be mistaken by your body for natural light and that can result in a feeling of wakefulness and not being able to nod off.
Fix it: Apply a 9pm tech curfew, it’s easier than it sounds and when it is time to turn out the lights ensure that you reduce your distractions; this includes your mobile phone, computer or anything else within reach. Quality sleep is essential when suffering with increased levels of stress, aim to achieve at least eight hours per night and avoid any stimulants after 5pm. One great way to easily fall back to sleep if you wake in the small hours is to ensure you have your bedside clock facing the other way. Knowing the time puts your brain into its parasympathetic or problem-solving mode – not conducive to sleep! On the other hand, while you’re sleeping, your brain is in its parasympathetic or rest and recovery mode, so you get the best rejuvenating effects from sleep. Keeping the time a mystery to yourself until you actually need to wake up will ensure you maximise these effects.
5. Your senses are enhanced
Noise, bright light or anything that would usually seem normal – including people sniffling and coughing, babies crying and annoying voices – appears to be magnified and get on your nerves.
Fix it: Your overall tolerance levels will increase over time as you work on a healthy diet, moderate fitness and overall conscious improved levels of well-being.
- Your safety’s become a low priority
You might find yourself exercising surprisingly poor judgement when it comes to situations that you would have normally have avoided, despite your inner voice whispering: ‘Is that really a wise thing to do?’
Fix it: until you’ve regained control over your behaviour it’s important to reduce the situations that have the potential to disrupt your life in a negative way. If you think that you’re about to do something outside of your usual character, then stop and remove yourself from that situation.
- You think you’re not stressed
That 10-page report you need tomorrow? No problem. That deadline looming? Of course you can meet it. One of the key signs of stress is thinking you’re coping beautiful when all the signs (like those above) seem to show otherwise.
Fix it: We all like a bit of denial and it’s normal to play down situations until they affect you in a negative way. If you’re struggling then be honest and get help, stress is a natural occurring state and something that with small adjustments can be controlled and even used to your advantage, with the right tools. You’re not alone – you’re only human.
National Stress Awareness Day is November 5th. Find out more and do an online stress assessment here
Benjamin Bonetti’s book How to Stress Less: Simple Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your Future How to Stress Less: Simple Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your Future is was published by Capstone in September, priced £10.99. benjaminbonetti.com