“I really think I need to take a break, but let me just finish this one last thing”
When was the last time you said this to yourself?
How many times have you said it the last few months?
Stress is our body’s way of dealing with demands from the immediate environment. Every external demand we get- our body reacts in a certain way to it. A usual response to any kind of demand to the body is a “fight or flight” mode – known as a stress response. Does this mean we’re always “stressed”? Yes, we are. But stress also leads to positive outcomes – working towards the set goals, being focused, motivated, and attentive are all signs of stress. It can make you productive – but excessive stress can cause various problems too.
Most of the time, we do not realise the amount of stress we are feeling till our body tells us to stop. We juggle our professional and personal life back and forth till we are burnt out. We might also ignore our thoughts when it tells us to slow down. Therefore, the “stop” we end up yielding to are the different physiological signs.
Our bodies might react to stress in different ways. Falling sick or feeling extremely weak are usually common. If you’re falling sick frequently with no cause in sight – maybe it’s time to take a break. Even reduced interest in activities we find pleasurable – from sex to our preferred hobbies. Gastrointestinal problems like stomach upsets, acidity, nausea, diarrhea are also common when we stress out. Excessive aches could also be an indicator to relax. All of these signs are usually the last to show up. We might not even recognise our mind telling us to slow down!
Here are a few ways you can keep a check on psychological signs of stress:
Unhealthy sleep cycles, sleeping too much or too little might be an indicator of too many unfulfilled demands and stress on our minds. Another important sign is our appetite – if we notice that we have been eating too much or too less compared to what we usually do – it might be a good idea to check up on our to do list to see what’s stressing us out too much.
A lot of the time, we might also try to shove these stressors away by distracting ourselves too much – using entertainment, drugs, smoking or drinking excessively as ways to feel less stressed might actually be harmful for us. Procrastinating or doing everything else apart from the tasks that need to be completed might be our mind telling us that the task is too demanding, switching on the “flight”mode. In times like these, make sure you break the huge task into numerous tiny ones so you don’t feel intimidated by them.
Excess stress can make us feel irritated, moody and troubled. Some of us might even react badly to these stressors causing more stress in other aspects of our lives. For example, if work demands too much of a family members’ time and energy, they might be stressed and angry. This might make them fight with their partner at home – causing more stress for themselves. While some people may react with frustration, others might be subdued. Avoiding work, unable to be assertive in environments with too much stress, feeling sad, demotivated and hopeless might also be ways that our mind is indicating stress.
If this goes unnoticed, the stress might only get worse. Signs of excess stress could also be negative self-talk, beliefs and thoughts. There might be a sudden shift in our inner monologue, where we are way too stringent with ourselves. We have an all or nothing attitude (like avoid taking breaks, overwork), might excessively self-doubt, and self-criticise. Apart from indicating stress, these behaviours in itself only lead to further stress.
Cognitively, stress can make our memory weak – we are so focused on demands our external environment is throwing at us, we might not register other things in our lives. This makes us forget a lot. We might also make impulsive or rash decisions. Since our body is always on a “stress response” mode, it is always active. We might fight and flight every situation without rationally thinking it through. So apart from impulsive decisions, we might also react more emotionally to our surroundings.
As we all know, too much stress and the inability to process and notice the signs could lead to various physiological and psychological problems. The snowballing of stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, as well as depression and anxiety among a variety of other problems.
We always say Prevention is better than Cure.
While we use this for visible physiological illnesses, as well for planning our future – it is now time to also use this saying for the invisible variables that might affect us more than we know. With a pandemic and its physical and psychological impact on us, and so many new changes in our “normal” – noticing and addressing stress, tension, or even our emotions will make us feel a lot better.