Anyone who hasn’t experienced a stressful period at least once in their life is either completely kidding themselves or living a very sheltered lifestyle. I’ve witnessed and experienced how stress can strain and ruin relationships, create health problems, and cause serious emotional changes such as depression and rage. I carry a lot of stress myself (hard to avoid it working three jobs) and it’s something I’m constantly struggling to manage.
Warning Signs and Observations
Take a look around you. It’s usually super easy to identify when someone is stressed, whether it’s the exhausted single mom struggling to get her three kids onto the bus, your friend who is losing hope of finding a job after being unemployed for 18 months, a relative whose spouse is sick in the hospital, or your frazzled colleague sitting next to you.
When people are stressed they tend to sigh loudly, frown and never smile, snap at you and anyone they come into contact with, and look pretty darn miserable. I’m guilty of having done all of those things and it’s embarrassing the more I think about how I’ve interacted with people during periods of high stress. Once I yelled at a guy who was blocking the exit on a bus when I was trying to get off instead of politely saying “excuse me.” I was frustrated after a bad day at work, and took my anger out on a total stranger. As soon as I got off the bus, a huge wave of guilt hit me, but it was too late for me to apologize. I made a total fool of myself in public. Because I wasn’t in control of my stress, I just snapped!
In the past I used to deny when I was crumbling and it wasn’t good for my mental or physical health. Nowadays I’m facing my faults straight on and finding ways to fix them. Identifying what triggers my stress and admitting how I act differently when I’m under pressure is helping me conquer the raging stress storm that looms over my head little by little!
Here Are My Stress Symptoms
• Backaches and tense muscles
• Grouchiness & irritability
• Short temperedness
• Feeling pressure & panicky
• Wanting to be left alone
• Poor communication and a lack of eye contact
• Focusing only on the negatives
• Over thinking & over complicating issues
• Feeling that my to-do list will never end
• Ignoring other people’s emotions
• Puffing my cheeks up like a chipmunk and then blowing the air out really loud…a lot
• Getting too caught up thinking about what I need to do instead of acting
Identify Your Stress Characteristics
We are all affected by stress in various ways and you may have an entirely different set of symptoms than me. Pause for a minute and think about what you’re really like when you’re stressed. Don’t worry, I won’t judge! Maybe you tend to yell and slam doors, scarf down a pint of ice cream and a chocolate sundae, cut people off, literally run around from place to place, bark at the barista when the person in line behind you gets their coffee first, or perhaps none of these at all. Some people are experts at completely masking their stress, not wanting anyone to have a clue what’s really going on inside their head and in their lives. What do you do?
Pick Just 1 Flaw and Fix It
If you’re already stressed out, the last thing you want is something else to work on, but reducing stress and how you are affecting others is important! Once you’ve improved on your first flaw, then move on to the next. The first one I’m going to work on myself is my terrible communication skills and lack of eye contact when I’m swamped and trying to multitask. I have a bad habit of trying to continue working when someone is talking to me. I’ll answer their questions of course, but have a lot of difficulty looking away from my work, especially if I’m in the middle of writing something and don’t want to lose my train of thought.
It’s totally rude of me not to look up when someone is asking me a question or trying to have a conversation. I get annoyed when people do that to me so it’s beyond stupid that I do it myself. I will change this!! If I’m in the middle of something important I just need to hit save, look away from my computer, and either help them right then and there, or politely explain that I’m occupied and arrange a time to talk later.
Stress Can Either Break Your Relationships Apart Or Teach You How to Make Them Stronger
I strongly believe that stress is contagious, especially with your significant other and family members. We share a lot of emotional connections with our loved ones and a lot of times we can feel what they feel. If you don’t want them to experience your stress, (hopefully this is the case!), the first step is to identify your symptoms, then start to work on controlling these weaknesses one by one.
Sometimes stress is unavoidable but if you start to work on your bad habits now, your life and relationships won’t be crippled when s— hits the fan.
Some things to think about
• What specifically is making you feel stressed?
• What needs to get done right now, and what can wait until later?
• Whom do you trust that you can go to and ask for help?
• Would you want to interact with yourself if you were your partner?
• What feedback is your family and significant giving you?
• Why is your communication suffering?
• Are your priorities where they need to be?
• When was the last time you listened and identified your weaknesses?
Our Loved Ones Can be Hurt the Most
They say we hurt those close to us the most. It sounds weird and I didn’t understand it when I was younger but I think there’s a lot of truth to this concept. We tend to take advantage of our loved ones because we know they will forgive us. Even if we are forgiven, acting this way is foolish and damaging, and if abused enough can drive wedges between even the closest of people. Don’t push your loved ones away or block them out. Instead, take the time to open up to your partner and your family. Explain what you’re going through and ask for advice and an extra hand. Keeping things bottled up will eventually cause you to burst.
Create a plan and take baby steps
As much as we want to be right all of the time, that’s just not possible. To become better people and be successful we have to be open to change, and willing to work on our faults and weaknesses. This can be really tough so it takes a lot of determination, especially when we already have so many things going on, deadlines to meet, and bills to pay. Wanting to change is half the battle and every effort helps, no matter how big or small!
Untemplaters, what causes you the most stress? Which of your stress symptoms is the worst and how are you trying to fix it?