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5 Symptoms of Stress

And how you can reduce them

Photography by Lee Searle 

Having almost fatally burnt out of my last career as a Luxury Wedding Cake Designer, recognising and addressing my symptoms of stress has become part of my daily routine.

Living in the moment allows me to see what is actually real and what is a fictional fear of the future and daily meditation and journaling calms my mind to prevent the monkey mind chatter I used to experience.

Here are 5 symptoms that you should be aware of because through recognising these and your own personal symptoms of stress, and by addressing them whilst they are still low level, you won’t experience the levels of stress that will bring about further complications or burnout.

1. Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed occurs when the information that has come into our brains is more than we can cope with or process. As a result of feeling overwhelmed we often procrastinate and can’t move forwards because we don’t want to do anything which can cause us harm but as we can’t process the ‘dangers’ properly we can’t tell which way to move for the best which means that things start to pile on top of us.

To overcome feeling overwhelmed write a list of everything that you currently feel you ‘need’ to do. Now, with a big marker pen, cross out everything on that list which isn’t a priority or doesn’t bring you productivity or joy.

Your list will be much shorter now and much easier for you to properly concentrate on. If you find it helpful, fold the list up line by line, so that you can only see the first item on the list. Once you complete that task, you can unfold the paper to reveal the next one. You can’t effectively or efficiently do more than one task at a time so there’s no reason for you to see the whole list in one go if it’s daunting.

2. Loss of Appetite or Increased Appetite

When we are feeling depleted in any way, we often try to fill the gap with food. If we are feeling stressed we create cortisol (the stress hormone) which triggers a craving for salty, sweet or fried foods as these are likely to release the feel good hormone of dopamine.

The flip side of emotional or stress eating, is having a lack of appetite due to the same problem.

A lack of appetite often occurs when the levels of stress are higher and your body has been thrown into a fight, flight or freeze situation. In these cases your parasympathetic nervous system has been activated and your energy is being directed towards the big muscles of your back and legs so you can make a quick getaway if necessary. This means that the energy that usually goes into your digestive system has been rerouted for a little while and that can leave you feeling nauseas and not wanting to eat.

If you find that you are hitting the freezer for ice-cream or you just can’t get enough of the pork-rinds, stop and ask yourself if you are actually hungry or whether your body is just trying it’s best to help you feel better. Likewise, if you notice that you just aren’t hungry at all, then you need to take a look at what in your life is the cause of your less than good feelings and how you can change things to bring more joy into your life.

3. Insomnia

If your monkey mind swirls most nights the chances of getting to sleep feel incredibly unlikely. Although you’ve been falling asleep all day, now that you can finally get the rest that you need, your brain wakes up with a ping as a million thoughts a second rush through it. Sometimes you do fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow but you’re then rudely awoke at 3 am and the sick inducing Wurlitzer of your internal thought patterns starts again.

Before you go to sleep write out your plans for the following day. Writing them out releases them from your brain which will means that you won’t be constantly worrying or thinking about them as you try to sleep.

Also, in another notebook if possible, write down all the great things that have happened that day. By recalling the happy events of your day, you will release the same hormones you felt at the time. One of those hormones is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is also called the Love Hormone because it produces effects of trust, bonding, relationship building and also reduces stress and anxiety and actually promotes sleep. Therefore, activating the release of these hormones through the happy memories of your day means that you will be more likely to get a restful nights sleep.

4. Low Level Anxiety

It’s not stopping you from getting out of your front door yet, but you know that it’s there. That constant and increasingly hard to ignore feeling of dis-ease. That constant feeling that you should be doing something other than the thing you’re doing and you’ve forgotten to do something vital.

To put this low level anxiety aside so you can concentrate fully on what it is that you need to be doing, schedule a Worry Time for later in the day. Every time an unwelcome worry pops into your head, write it down in a notebook and tell yourself that you will deal with this at the allotted time.

When Worry Time comes around, allow yourself 20 minutes to worry about the things on your list. At the end of the 20 minutes, tell yourself that Worry Time is over and carry on with the rest of you day. By acknowledging your worries, and then putting them aside, you will stop the little voice from interfering with your day to day life.

5. Irritability

If you find that you’re becoming irrational with your shortening fuse, take a 21 breath mediation and on every out breath release the tension that has built up.

A 21 breath mediation is exactly what it says on the tin. Breathe in and out as deeply and as slowly as you can, preferably with your eyes closed, and concentrate on a single word that sums up what you want to feel. Whether that’s ‘calm’ or ‘peace’ or ‘love’ if you are finding that somebody is particularly getting on your nerves. The increased oxygen supply will reduce your cortisol levels and leave you feeling much more relaxed.

Every person has their own tolerance for stress, and being aware of your particular tolerance and how to control your stress when it occurs would be hugely beneficial to you and enable you to prevent yourself from entering the spiral of stress induced depression, diabetes or burnout.

Truly appreciating and having gratitude for what you have in your life, journaling, mediating and natural mood enhancers such as walking in nature, exercise and laughing with friends are all ways that you can create a balanced life for yourself.

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