When asked about stress, people tend to give one of three responses. They will say:
- I am “stressed out” (which most likely means they are experiencing burnout)
- I have no stress
- I’m not really sure if I am stressed
Stress has been labeled as such a negative thing in society that people either feel victimized by it or they attempt to avoid it like it is a contagious disease, even to the point of denying its existence in their lives. Neither one of these is a healthy way to address stress or its effects.
Recognizing stress and being able to address it properly is the best way best course of action, but before we address how to recognize stress, let’s look at a couple of things that we do that are actually more harmful when it comes to stress.
Often people recognize that they are stressed once they are completely “stressed out.” We get so focused on the day-to-day that we miss the cues or we’ve been taught that it’s not that bad until it is. We may seldom check in with ourselves to make sure that we are healthily processing life. This leaves room for us to experience burnout, which many of us are really experiencing when we say that we are stressed or “stressed out.”
Burnout is the point where stress has gone on for so long that now we are unable to ignore it. This is not what we are speaking of when we are addressing stress. The goal is to be able to identify stress before it gets to this point. The other thing that people do regarding stress that is actually more harmful is to ignore or deny that they experience stress.
This is not referring to those that have learned to live life in a way that minimizes stress or those that have begun to master stress management skills. We all experience stress at some point in our lives, but ignoring those stressful times or denying them does not actually help you evade the effects. It is actually a form of suppression and causes more detrimental effects on your overall health and wellness. You want to recognize the stress in your life and learn how to properly address it so that you are benefiting from it instead of being harmed by it.
So, how do you recognize stress? First, we have to make sure that we check in with ourselves regularly to make sure that we are healthily processing life. You must know yourself before you can know when things are awry. It is easy to reach burnout if you are not in tune with yourself, not knowing how you got there.
Next, you must reflect to identify the patterns that you exhibit under stress or excitement. Evaluate past times when you were stressed or excited.
What were your reactions?
What were your thoughts?
How did your body respond?
Now think about upcoming events that you deem stressful or exciting. How do these make you feel mental-emotionally, and physically? What automatic first thoughts come to mind when you think of these past and future events?
Evaluating these things will help you to begin to recognize stress on an individual basis. Once you can recognize stress in your life, you can identify triggers and improve your stress response.