Friday, 22 August 2014

I thought I knew about stress, until I became stressed!

I’d imagine most of us have a fairly good understanding of stress. Dare I say most of us may even think we know pretty much everything there is to know about stress. I thought I knew everything there was to know about stress; I’d suffered from it enough times over the years. Little did I realise I couldn’t even answer the simplest of questions about my stress.

So what did I know about stress? I’m no expert on the subject, but a cursory glance at my basic knowledge tells me that as individuals we can get stressed from things like feeling overwhelmed at work, or having relationship issues, or kids kicking up a storm, or no money in the bank and the bills are pouring in. And of course the list is endless.

We may know what happens to the body when we get stressed. The physical symptoms might be  tension running across the shoulders, the frantic thoughts on a never ending loop, a racing heart, sweating hands, butterflies in the stomach. Again, the list goes on.

And I’d imagine we all know of some ways of combating stress: a walk in the park, meditation, taking a pause, chatting to someone, exercise. Again, the list for dealing with stress is limitless, and everyone tends to have their own particular ways of coping with it.

Of course I’ve been stressed a million times or more throughout my lifetime. So I assumed I knew all there was to know about stress. Until I recently became stressed. This time I asked myself the question: Where is my stress coming from? The answer was, after several days of fruitless observation, I hadn’t the faintest idea!

We know how to recognise stress, because we recognise the symptoms in our bodies. The root of stress is sometimes obvious to locate: I feel my racing heart and the tension across my shoulders, because the driver behind me is revving up the rear of my car. But sometimes it is less easy to locate.

But how could I not know what was stressing me out? I looked at every possible source, yet still I couldn’t find the root of its cause. Often I’ve never bothered asking where my stress is coming from, just that I need to deal with it. But then wouldn’t it be more efficient when dealing with stress if we could know the nature of the beast; the cause of it? But sometime stress can conceals its triggers.

I think the answer is that it’s not always clear where are stress is coming from. The smallest insignificant event which happens in our daily lives can easily go unnoticed on a conscious level, whereas the subconscious mind absorbs the information and this can trigger a stress reaction, often based on past experiences or memories. Therefore the conscious mind cannot always know the cause of our stress.

Sometimes it’s less important to know where our stress is coming from, but far more important that we are AWARE that we are stressed. That means tuning in to our own particular symptoms of stress as it manifests in our bodies/ minds. It means recognising it early enough before it can do damage. Once it is recognised we can take action to alleviate the stress.

For every kind of stress out there there is an appropriate action which can alleviate it. What that action is, only each individual can answer. But we can say there are some great places to start which will almost certainly have some kind of beneficial effect. The outdoors is always a great place to start. I personally find a long cycle ride can work wonders for clearing stress out of my body.

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