Has stressed become your new normal?

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How do you know when you have lowered the bar to such a point that being stressed feels like your normality.

These are the kind of things I hear from clients when we talk about stress as well as how it manifests itself on a daily basis in their lives. You see, stress is mentioned in nearly EVERY coaching session. It may not be named as such, but, I can assure you, it's there for the majority of people at some time. It might well be roaring like a lion, or buzzing like an annoying fly, but it’s there for nearly all of us - unless you’re a devotee of calm, wear orange and sit crosslegged for 14 hours a day.

Just take a second and reflect on the past two weeks, see if any of the following make you feel... just a little uncomfortable.

“I take painkillers every day. Some days I forget how many, or even why I’d taken them”

“I’m ecstatically pleased if I can get 5 hours sleep, can't remember what 8 hours was like.”

“I just belittle any ache or pain, it’s inconvenient, irritating and needs to be ignored.”

“It is normal to use my workload and responsibilities to rationalise my nasty tempers and negativity at home and at work.”

“Fitting in my husband into the daily schedule was impossible. Yet, I somehow expected him to know when I wanted a hug or, god forbid, intimacy. If it wasn’t forthcoming I’d equate his lack of his mindreading skills, to the possibility that we might need a divorce.”

I could go on but I’m quietly confident you understand what stress can look like in people’s lives. The thing is, do you know if stress is in yours, and if so how low have you lowered the bar?

Here are some sure signs that you're likely to be stressed and putting your health, if not your life, at risk. (I say that because it's EXACTLY what I did to myself!)

Ignoring the little health issues.

Chances are you have had headaches, sore throats, neck pain, little bit of a temperature, sneezing, niggly coughs for months, slightly upset tummy, back pain, tense shoulders - any of this sound a little familiar?

Have you just ignored your body and anything it might be trying to tell you?

Could you be accepting some, or all the above, as a part of your normal daily life? Think maybe you have lowered the bar just a little?

The thing is they are NOT normal. They are likely in some way to be compromising your immune system screaming out for you to slow down and eliminate some stress.

Lack of quality sleep.

When your head hits the pillow, you should be floating off into slumberland where quality rest and relaxation awaits you. If your laughing out loud at that description and feel like you slept with a brick as a pillow and have run through every possible solution to every problem at home and or at work, prepared your to-do list and rewritten it twice and you have only been in bed for 40 minutes, chances are you’re so stressed your mind/body is stuck in stress mode. Your body is literally too frightened to relax and find sleep just in case all this catastrophic stress stuff your feeding your mind actually happens while you're asleep!

Hard to focus and concentrate

There isn’t an exact way of explaining how stress manifests itself when you’re trying to concentrate. Everyone is so very different.

Sometimes described as a fog that clouds your thoughts… Memories can be challenging, names of the people you're around every day, stuff that you really do know but alludes you because your mind feels tight and the simple things just don’t tumble out when you need them… Like a bottle neck in your thinking and your thoughts... Can’t not mention the snappy, irritable stress monkey who lashes out with a roar that is in no way commensurate with the tiny wee issue at hand (that could have been me… couldn’t possibly say)

Only you will know what happens to you when you're stressed, what’s important is that you take the time to learn exactly how you uniquely respond to stress.

We talk a lot about stress in coaching sessions, learning how to recognise it in yourself is step one. The following is my suggestion; it may well help you create some personal learning in the minefield of stress in today’s world.

Keep a diary for 2 weeks noting the following. This isn’t anything scientific, it’s just the very basics of self-reviewing how you’re really living.

1.       every ache and pain - where was it? for how long? what did you do about it?

2.       Sleep diary every night for 14 days. What do you eat/drink in the 3 hours before bed? what were you stressed about? how many hours sleep did you get?

3.       Remember to breathe and record when you needed to remember to breathe!

4.       Forgetful, irritable, inconsistent? Record how your stress you feel relates to the people in your life, how are they impacted? How are you impacted by them?(said with love wrapped up with a huge ribbon. You’re going to need to be brave and honest!)

5.       Take 30 minutes to just think about your basic beliefs around stress/ relaxation/ self-love. Who modelled positive behaviour or not so positive behaviour?

6.       After 14 days, take a real long hard look at what’s happening. Go and see your health professional if you have any concerns and show them your 2-week diary.

The answers to all the above challenges are held in healthy food, exercise, positive people, some humour and a good night’s sleep. To name but a few. You see I know the answers, just like you do but it's making the time and prioritising our own NEEDS that is the challenge - let’s keep that little basket of issues for another blog!

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.
— Seneca, Letters from a Stoic