Stress is a part of life but too much of it can be very harmful to us mentally, emotionally and physically. Not only that, it has a way of creeping up on us whilst we are completely unaware. Thus we tend we tend not to be looking for help or finding ways to deal with it. Instead we power on not realising how stressed we really are and the damage we are doing to ourselves.
In this blog we highlight 3 signs that might indicate you are suffering from a much higher, and potentially damaging, level of stress than you think.
1. You keep making yourself busier
Naturally some of us like to keep occupied, others less so. But being busy and then actively seeking to do more can be a sign of high stress levels.
It is more than a little ironic that the stress of being busy makes us want to be busier. There is a flawed logic in that the fear or unwillingness to stop and listen to what our body is telling us actually leaves us finding more ways to be busy.
In other cases it is because we do not want to stop and think about specific aspects of our lives. For example it is common for someone experiencing a bereavement to throw themselves in to work, socialising or both. The desire to avoid dealing with the underlying emotions and what we are experiencing in life, forces us to be constantly occupied.
In practice it is the space, the peace and quiet that we actively avoid, that would benefit us most. Taking time out to feel the pain of bereavement, to step back from a stressful job or get support for a family crisis is a far better solution.
2. You choose to spend more time alone
We are all different and all enjoy differing levels of solitude. For some a long walk with only our thoughts for company is delightful. Meanwhile others cannot think of anything worse. The key is taking a step back and being aware of where your natural ‘level’ is before deciding what might be out of character.
If you used to look forward to social gatherings like the Friday post-work drinks but are choosing to stay home alone, it could be a sign of very high stress levels. Equally if a good friend invites you out for dinner but you make up an excuse to stay at home alone, it could be an indicator of stress impacting on your confidence and desire to interact with others.
3. ‘I will go to the gym next week…’
Stress can create a number of ‘vicious cycles’, one of the most significant being in terms of our desire to be physically active.
High stress levels can leave us feeling mentally and physically drained. With our minds working over-time we can easily become lethargic and disinterested in being active. Our bodies are designed to produce energy on demand as we become active but as we do less, it reduces, not increases, our energy levels.
Worse still by skipping exercise we miss out on the mood-enhancing chemicals our body naturally creates. Leaving us feeling more down, more tired and even less inclined to get active.
If you find yourself increasingly drawn to (and failing to get off of) the couch, it might be a sign that your stress levels are at dangerous levels.
What can I do to reduce stress?
Counselling is a great way to tackle the issues underlying stress. Whether they are tied up in past experiences, work, family relationships or life challenges, working with a counsellor can help you learn how to cope with the stress in your life.