Do You See Yourself as Stressed?
-by Vanessa Hampton

Stress has been at the forefront of my mind recently for several reasons.

One of those reasons is that next week I am giving a big presentation on the topic of stress and how it affects the body. Of course, I have been stressing about it (oh the irony), but it has given me an opportunity for some reflection about stress management. It has also required me to think about the importance of someone being able to even recognize themselves as being in a stressed state.

Until the last year, I did not think of myself as a stressed person. I always thought of stress as something experienced during crisis.

Years ago, I lived a completely different life in an unhealthy place of “survival mode.” I realize that was definitely a state of chronic stress, but these days I am in a happy and supportive marriage and extremely passionate about my work.

I can’t possibly be stressed when I love my life so much … right? Wrong.

I have come to learn that stress can be triggered by many different things. Those things can range from an intense workout to a serious emergency. The human body responds the same, no matter what the trigger. So, while I don’t often experience crises triggered stress in my life now, I very often experience stress from an extremely busy schedule, my strong drive in life, and even the way in which I like to push my body.

I thrive on efficiency, organization and dependability. All things that lower my stress when I feel solid in them. The irony here is that the same things that can lower my stress level can also make me more stressed from trying to do too much. What I have come to understand is that I don’t have it in me to lead a stress-free life or even a low stress life. It’s who I am.

The key to keeping myself healthy, however, is recognizing this as stress so that I can better manage it.

Maybe you experience stress differently. Maybe yours comes on Monday morning with the busy week ahead, or maybe your stress comes from a strong feeling of overwhelm on occasion about taking care of everything your family needs. Maybe yours is triggered by a demanding job. Everyone experiences stress at different points, but chronic stress can cause a slew of health issues including everything from headaches to heart and stomach issues. Chronic stress can also lead to anxiety, which is a lingering feeling of fear or apprehension that sticks around long after the trigger is gone.

Everyone is different as to how much stress they experience in their life and just how it affects them. As I sit here with a twitch in my left eyelid that has been persistent for at least a few weeks, I fully recognize that it is brought on by the extra things I am juggling both personally and professionally in this moment. Stress is perceived, so getting to know yourself and learning to recognize your own stress triggers (and when you are experiencing stress) is key to managing it.

We don’t have to figure out how to live a stress-free life. I think that is impossible for most of us.

However, we do have to be very intentional about managing that stress for the sake of our physical and emotional health. There is a slew of information out there and a variety of resources to help learn how to manage your stress, but the first step is to pay attention.

As for me, it’s time to rid myself of the twitch and go meditate. Happy de-stressing!