Your body always knows what it needs before you know what it needs. And if you listen closely, you can hear it.
When we are stressed, the body will exhibit signals, from extremely minute to obviously loud, and we can use these signals to understand and cope with the stress we are experiencing.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to stress, because stress manifests itself differently in different people.
The next time you feel stressed, if you are able, stop whatever it is that you are doing. Take a minute and listen to your body. Scan from your toes to the crown of your head and examine what you feel. Listen to what your body is telling you. Are your calves tingling? Is your heart rate accelerated or heavy? Are you sweating more than usual? Is your breathing shallow? And how do your head and your mind feel. Does your train of thought feel like whatever is normal for you? Are you feeling aches anywhere? These are just some questions to ask yourself, but the feelings in your body can guide you. I created a worksheet here (Brain Dump Worksheet) to help guide you in this process.
Bodily signals have been a way for the body to speak to the mind in organisms since the beginning of time. The body tells us when to eat, when to drink, and when to rest. Less acknowledged is the body’s ability to tell us when we are stressed.
The body acknowledges extreme threats with a very noticeable stress response. This response acts through the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system, which is a system that maintains homeostasis, or balance, in the body. The autonomic nervous system unconsciously acts to keep the body’s many systems in balance. So, without you consciously thinking about it, the body is working to interpret and react to external signals like threats to your body and life.
A sympathetic nervous system stress response is colored by symptoms like an accelerated heart rate and breathing, sweating, and a sense of urgency. This reaction prepares the body (fight or flight) to literally face the danger at hand or run from it. In modern society while such severe threats are much less common, we still experience stress, and stress that can be present for long periods of time.
A good way to listen to your body is to sit in a quite, comfortable place, observe your thoughts and feelings, and write them all down. Do a body scan like I described above. Use a worksheet like the one I created here (Brain Dump Worksheet) to guide you. I know you want to become less stressed, or at least better at managing your stress, and this is the first step in doing just that.