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Becoming aware of your stress

Understanding your stress?

Something that many people don’t realize about stress is that it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill, which begins with just a small and manageable handful of frozen water. But then more and more snow clings to the original ball until suddenly, you have a very large, very cold boulder of snow to contend with. And it just keeps rolling and growing. Stress, like the snowball, can sneak up on us… suddenly, we’re overwhelmed and heading towards burnout.

So, how do we manage the snowball of stress? How do we keep it from becoming something too big and heavy to handle? The first step is awareness. When I experienced burnout, I didn’t see it coming. I had been working with high levels of stress for so long that it just felt normal, but then I hit a wall and realized I needed to make major changes to my life.

Becoming aware of your stress means that you make small changes along the way to create a healthy life balance, instead of having to stop everything and go through a major life assessment and recovery. But that is easier said than done. Stress is often so ingrained into our lives that sometimes we don’t notice how overwhelmed we are until it’s too late.

Here are a few indicators of high stress levels:

Physical signs—Tight shoulders, insomnia, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, grinding teeth, constricted breathing, clammy palms, fatigue, nausea, and headaches.
Emotional signs—anxiety, irritability, inability to focus, lack of social interaction, avoiding making decisions, lower productivity, job dissatisfaction, and lack of motivation.
Spiritual signs—joyless striving, lack of direction, loss of purpose, a decrease of faith, a disparity between values, beliefs and behaviours.

All of these signs—physical, emotional and spiritual—are normal things to experience now and then. They could be the result of many other things besides stress; catching a cold, for example, leads to many of these symptoms. However, if you experience these several times a week, for several weeks in a row… that is your body telling you to slow down and take stock of that snowball’s effect on you.

Questions for reflection:

  • List any signs of stress you can identify with; physical, emotional and spiritual?
  • Note what your feelings are telling you about your stress levels?
  • What is God telling you about your stress levels?

Check out to check your stress levels.

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Don Easton

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