Thursday, 18 February 2016

Pinpointing your Stress

Stress is a key component of our everyday, modern lives. We expect to be stressed; it's a sign of success. It's an indicator that we are busy, in-demand people. But it's not healthy.

A huge part of self care is about recognising when we’re stressed, under pressure or generally suffering with a lot of anxiety and taking measures to alleviate it. For me, stress leads to me being run down. And along with experiencing a lot of worry mentally, my body reacts physically as well.

Here are the physical symptoms of stress that I exhibit:
- mouth ulcers
- psoriasis
- migraines
- swollen glands - inflamed throat
- difficulty sleeping
- irritability

Practicing self care methods can help us to feel calmer, healthier and reduce the physical symptoms of stress.

This month I’ve been keeping an eye on my own stress levels with regular stress tests.
When you’re working a full time job, working a part-time evening and weekend job, plus teaching a class, volunteering, and running a blog, you can struggle to find time to breathe. At least I do.

So I decided to test out my stress levels and measure what affect all my multi-tasking is having on my health.

Step One: How Vulnerable are you to Stress - Visit and get your risk of stress score.
I scored between 25 and 55, which according to the site is a very high score, putting me in the danger zone.

I am prone to stress, but I already knew that. It’s the joys of multi-tasking. But how stressed have I felt this month so far?

Step Two: Test your stress levels  - By visiting 15Minutes4Me you can record your stress levels. And I must say, I've found it very accurate.

February 1st stress levels – Normal Depression, Mild Tension and Severe Anxiety. My anxiety has definitely been much more severe than my depression over the last few months, so it was interesting to see this reflected in my stress test.
So I wanted to test my stress levels as the month progressed to see if self care could reduce my anxiety and improve my mood.

February 7th stress levels - Severe Tension, Moderate Anxiety and Severe Depression. I was having a pretty crappy week, so it's normal that my stress test would reflect that. I didn't expect my anxiety to have reduced so much, but the increase in depression and tension perfectly matched my mood. Week One of Self Care hadn't gotten off to the best of starts.
But could a full commitment to self care methods reduce this as the month went on?

February 15th stress levels - Normal Tension, Moderate Anxiety, Normal Depression. The week had a lot of stressful moments. From going to the doctors, to travelling to Copenhagen and Sweden (when I always find flying and security control stressful), and getting sick I had a week of highs and lows.
But the lows never hit the same level as the previous week, and the highs outweighed them by far. It was interesting to see that by mid February, I've really gotten the hang of lowering my stress levels.

Whether due to the sheer high of travelling to Scandinavia, or from self care finally starting to feel more like a habit, I have been managing my mental health. It hasn't always been easy. And it's been a month filled with stressful situations. But recognising when I'm stressed, and what some of the predicators may be has been really helpful in starting to defeat it.

Some success for self care if I may say so myself.

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