If Stress is a Response, Do you know how you respond?

I spoke to a very close friend recently who has been going through a lot emotionally.  She’s also been sick more often than she’d like.  When I asked her whether she thought the illnesses could be stress related, she said, “I don’t think I’m stressed about these things.”

I hear that response often when I present and speak about managing stress.  In fact, if you had asked me 4 or 5 years ago if I felt stressed I would have said no.  I didn’t know my anger, frustration, irritability, compulsive exercise and constant desire to be anywhere but where I was in a given moment were all stress responses.  I lived in a constant state of (negative) stress.

Eventually I came to my senses and realized “there has to be a better way”.  And there is.  But before I could do anything about it, I needed to be aware of my current responses and behaviors.  By (physiological) definition stress is:

a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.

physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension

Below is a list of common (negative) responses.  Do you recognize any of these in yourself (or someone you care about?)

Cognitive Symptoms
Memory problems (forgetfulness)
Inability to concentrate (lack of focus)
Poor judgment
Seeing only the negative
Anxious or racing thoughts
Constant worrying
Inability to make decisions

Emotional Symptoms
Irritability, short temper, angry
Agitation, inability to relax
Feeling overwhelmed
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Depression or general unhappiness

Physical Symptoms
Aches and pains due to muscle tension
Diarrhea or constipation
Nausea, dizziness
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
Loss of sex drive
Frequent colds
Teeth grinding
High blood pressure

Behavioral Symptoms
Eating more or less
Sleep too much or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
Nervous habits (ie, nail biting, pacing)
Accident prone
Cry easily
Increased spending/shopping
Obsessive behavior (cleaning, lots of exercise)

Awareness is the first step. Do you know how you respond to stress?  Do you recognize any of the above in you or someone you know?  If yes, it may be time to create what I call your “Stress Relief Toolbox” – practical tools to help you cope with challenging situations.  Stress management is not about never reacting in a negative way, it’s about having the tools necessary to help you bounce back.  I still get angry and irritated.  My awareness allows me to catch that and ask, “What can I do to ensure a favorable outcome?”  And, I’m human, I don’t always achieve the favorable outcome, but I always learn from the experience.

We all have stress.  What matters though isn’t the situation itself, but instead how you respond.  Maybe we should call it “response management” instead of stress management.

Upcoming Event:  A Stress Relief Workshop For Women, Kingston, MA

Did you recognize any of the above symptoms in yourself or someone you know?  Do you live in or around the South Shore Massachusetts area?  If yes, then please join me as I present a Stress Relief workshop for Women on Wednesday June 30, 6:30pm to 8pm at Hope Floats Wellness in Kingston, MA.  We’ll have discussion and practice of tools you can use immediately and start buildling your own stress relief toolbox.  Learn more here or email me with any questions.  This will be a fun, interactive event!  And if you’re reading this thinking “That would be nice, but who has time.” That’s when you need it the most.  Taking care of yourself will allow you to continue taking care of others.

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About Stacey:

Hi and welcome to the Brave Communicator blog where I write about communication as the path to well-being, trust, and influence.

I share insights, observations and interviews with brave communicators. I invite you to take a look around and bravely join the conversation. Learn more
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