It is a given that stress negatively affects our health. It is therefore important 1) to be aware that we have entered into a state of stress, and 2) to have self-care skills, such as meditation, to reduce the stress state rather than just suffer it. Without awareness, we can live in or near a state of stress all day long, even extending into a restless night and bad dreams.
The list below gives you a guideline to know if you are in a state of stress. You will notice that stress is not just perceived in your body, but in the state of your thoughts and feelings. Use this list to increase your awareness of stress and your signal to practice self-care.
Stress shows up in your mind as
- Judgmental critique of others and/or self
- Inflexible thinking, black and white thinking
- Frantic defense of opinions
- The need to always be right
- Inflated and arrogant self-image
- Chronic refusal to decide, maintenance of confusion
- Inability to focus, numbed mind
- Active search for distraction
- Victimized thinking
- Isolative self-absorption
- Hyper-skepticism, cynicism
Stress shows up in your feelings as
- Easy to anger, rage
- Fake performance of feelings
- Denial of hurt and vulnerability
- Restlessness, impatience
- Desire to dominate
Stress shows up in your body as
- Hypertense vascular system
- Tension headaches
- Gastro-intestinal disturbances such as acid reflux
- Rigid diets, anorexia
- Body armoring and stiffness, e.g., neck pain and low back pain
- Willful forcing of body to exceed limits (i.e., risk taking, extreme sports)
- Spent, Low energy
- Repetitive self-soothing such as excessive masturbation
- Eating too much, stuffing
If you notice a pattern of any of these stress states in your life, it’s time to learn self-care skills such as meditation. Meditation has solid research proving its positive effect on your mind, feelings and body. In the face of a world filled with sources of stress, we are approaching a point where self-care skills such as meditation are not just a nice idea but a daily necessity.
Richard Schaub, Ph.D., is director of the Huntington Meditation and Imagery Center, Huntington NY.