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How To Detect and Prevent Prolonged Stress

Prolonged Stress

Prolonged Stress - (Image Credit: Shutterstock); Author picture - (Image Credit: Author)

An overbooked planner. A dozen tabs spanning the top of your computer. Constant calls, texts, and emails pulling your attention away from the one task you’ve been trying to accomplish all day. Sound familiar?

A moderate amount of stress in life is beneficial for our health. We wouldn’t get much accomplished without a sense of urgency. A baseline level of worry and anxiety prompts us to make money to support our families, buy groceries to have food prepared for the week, and make time for our loved ones since we know our time with them is limited.

How much stress is “too much” then?

As with any emotional response, stress becomes a problem when it interferes with your quality of life. If you find your self-care, relationships, mental/emotional well-being, and/or normal functionality suffering, it’s advisable to take a step back and reset.

You may be experiencing an “unhealthy” amount of stress if you’ve been burdened with one or more of the following symptoms for an extended period of time:

  • Frequent agitation, moodiness, and frustration
  • Feeling out of control, anxious, and overwhelmed
  • Constant worry and/or pessimism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pains and aches
  • Low energy levels
  • Frequent onset of illnesses
  • Forgetfulness and disorientation
  • Inability to focus and make sound decisions
  • Development of toxic behaviors (abuse of drugs and/or alcohol, under- or over-consumption of food, nail-biting, etc.)
  • Avoidance of responsibilities

Low self-esteem

Especially for those of us with a Type A personality (I’m raising my hand here) who are famous for over-committing and over-achieving, we’re destined to eventually crash along the highway of burnout.

Whether you’re a Type A person or not, we have all experienced feeling completely drained at some point in our lives. The question is: how many of us are proactive in managing stress, so we don’t become the target of this self-fulfilling prophecy?

Below are three, simple techniques that you can implement today to help diminish stress and consistently show up for the world as your top-notch self!

1. Schedule breaks

When we’re overwhelmed by life, the last thing we want to do is take a break. It seems
counter-productive, doesn’t it? You’re wasting precious time that could be spent chipping away at a work project, catching up on household chores, or adhering to that long list of phone calls haunting you at your desk.

Actually, studies have revealed that the most high-achieving individuals take breaks about every 52 minutes. Set reminders on your phone that nudge you to step away from your workspace, mindfully eat, take a walk, stretch, and/or chat with a friend to help prevent burnout, release tension in the body, boost energy levels, and spark creativity.

The real waste of time here is found sitting at your desk full of frustration and brain fog as you force each sentence of that important email you still have to write; it’s found in trying to “one-up” stress thinking that you’re tricking your body into productivity.

In a culture that glorifies the constant “hustle,” it’s easy to feel guilty for making time for self-care. Remember this, however: how hard you work is not correlated with the number of mental breakdowns you had this week, how little you slept, or how stressed out you get.

Give yourself grace. Embrace your humanness.

Your rested self will produce much better results than your tired, worn-out self ever could.

2. Set boundaries

Under external pressures
Whether under external pressures or an internal sense of obligation to “people-please,” many of us tend to over-commit in our work life and/or relationships. This “over-commitment” can stack additional, overwhelming responsibilities on top of your busy schedule if you never put your foot down and learn how to say “no.”

Before agreeing to every task or opportunity, evaluate its urgency, relevance to your goals, and personal timetable. You’re not a hotline receiver and you don’t have to conform to others’ expectations to be accepted. In fact, those who truly appreciate your character will respect and admire the boundaries you’re setting instead of getting upset when you put yourself first.

3. Follow morning and nighttime routines that serve you

How you start and wind down your day has a significant impact on your mental health, mood, energy levels, productivity, and sleep quality. The key is to set sustainable habits and rituals that fuel your mind with peace, positivity, and gratitude.

A part of those rituals can include:

  • Gratitude journaling
  • Meditation/prayer
  • Intentional physical activity
  • Writing/reading affirmations
  • Spending time with a loved one
  • Having a selective bedtime
  • Limiting screen time within certain time frames

Morning Meditation Prayer

Remain patient with these rituals, especially if they’re something you haven’t practiced before. It can take a little bit of time before you look back and notice the results, but “little” sprinkles of mental clarity eventually rack up. When you start and end your day in a level head-space, it becomes progressively easier to be present and focused when it’s grind time!

Final Thoughts

How you show up for yourself in one area of life typically reflects the overall quality of your lifestyle. Making yourself a priority isn’t easy, but those extra acts of self-care will inevitably promote a cascade of healthy choices and behaviors that further reduce stress. It’s all a cycle, my friends. Don’t underestimate the power of these “easy-to-put-off” tasks because they’re the ones that tend to make the greatest difference! Take care!

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The content on our website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or therapy. You should NEVER disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment due to something you have read on our website and we will not be held responsible for any adverse health condition or injury that occurs as a result of doing so.
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Julia Nadolski

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Knowledge has become Julia’s power as she struggled with mental health surrounding fitness throughout adoles...

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