You are not alone in this. High stress is so common, people bond over it. “I’m so stressed out!” “Me too, it’s crazy!”
While it’s great to have something in common with others… being stressed out is not the top choice. It has way too many downsides. For one, physical symptoms often show up when high stress has gotten chronic. There are resources to check to see if you’re wondering if you’ve reached chronic or severe stress. Articles and blog posts about stress symptoms naturally suggest you see a doctor if you have stress symptoms that go on for a while, like an acne attack, frequent headaches, or teeth grinding. While this can be critical, it’s also important to know what you can be doing to prevent these stress symptoms from getting so bad in the first place.
Our bodies are giving us information all the time. But if you’ve been experiencing stress for a while, you can end up feeling like you’re in survival mode. Just getting through another day feels like a win. It can be hard to imagine having something else on your To Do list, like “Figure out a way to relax.”
But just using your attention differently can help move you out of survival mode. It can also help you hear the body’s signals before they become screaming red flare stress symptoms. Taking seriously that your body really is trying to give you information all the time is a start. Then listening to what your body may be telling you is next — BEFORE the signals get so loud it becomes physical discomfort, or even a health crisis.
Simply checking in with your body more often during the day can turn this around. Program your phone or computer to give you a little (friendly-sounding) alarm every couple of hours, or even once an hour. Then just stop what you’re doing just for a few moments. Breathe more deeply, and notice what you notice in your body. Is there tightness in your neck or shoulders that might turn into a headache? Catching it earlier will allow you to loosen up instead of getting tighter and tighter.
Maybe stretch and bend a little to loosen the rest of the body up. When is the last time you drank some water? Or had a meal? Connecting more with your body and listening to its signals will help break up the survival-mode stress. Stopping the action and checking in can help you feel more in control, and allow you to hear your body’s information before it gets so loud it hurts.