“It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.” Hans Selye
On page 59 of the ‘helping abused women in shelters’2 workbook there is a list that lays out various physical signs of stress. Some of them might be obvious, some might be a surprise to you. They are messages that your body is trying to send you, are you ready to listen?
- inability to concentrate or focus on one thing
- trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, sometimes called insomnia
- being irritable or having a short temper
- over-reacting to small problems/snapping at people for no reason
- feeling sad or hopeless
- changes in eating patterns (not eating or eating too much)
- feeling that your heart is beating too fast
- smoking more than usual or starting to smoke after you quit
- pacing or finding it difficult to sit down for very long
- having the urge to cry or crying at small things that don’t usually upset you.
- feeling anxious or afraid for no particular reason
- being easily startled by sounds
- drinking alcohol to try and calm down or relax
- abusing prescription or illegal drugs
- having a nervous, upset or queasy feeling in your stomach
- finding it difficult to stop thinking about the stressful thing in your life
- trying to avoid things that remind you of that stress
- having difficulty remembering things
- focusing on the negative and thinking negative things about yourself
- strong desire to run away or leave your life behind
- not wanting to be around other people
- grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
- sore muscles, pain, headaches, etc.
- shortness of breath
- being accident prone
- feeling of weakness or dizziness or of lift not being real
Obviously having one or two of these symptoms could point to generalized job stress, over active children in your life, or just feeling the blues. If however, the list looks like your typical weekday, you are probably seriously stressed. The construct of stress will be different for each of us, and each person handles it in their own way. I won’t tell you that all you need is a bubble bath and some candles, or a trip away. If you could afford to get away or even afford candles you might not be in this situation right? I will suggest talking it out with a friend, going for a walk, or just take 5 minutes to do some deep breathing. If things are beyond the in and out of air, please call someone professional. If the stress is a result of relationship abuse, don’t wait. There is a list of numbers on this website, many of them are no cost to you. Take care of yourself.