Our bodies communicate to us when things are getting off balance and experiencing stress. We each have our “weak” areas that function as a protective element. Our personal warning signs of stress turn on when things are taking a downturn. One could accurately say these are the sensitive or highly tuned parts of ourselves that tell us when we need to slow down, check-in, and nourish ourselves back to calm center space. They are there even if we don’t acknowledge them. Think of it as a warning light on the dashboard alerting us that the tank is getting low. When we ignore the signs, we often end up getting sick.
For example, some people tend to have a sensitive throat, and the first place their body feels extra wear and tear is by getting a scratchy or sore throat. For others, it might be a sensitive digestive tract that expresses in constipation (holding it in) or diarrhea, while still others may get slight headaches or stuffy sinuses. It could also be tight muscles in the neck or back, resulting in a different posture. We may even do things like clenching our jaw or grinding our teeth as a result of silent stress.
One of my early warning signs that I have now learned to recognize is holding of my breath and shallow breathing that feels laboring after a while. I also tend to carry extra tension in my upper back and shoulders that start to ache, which if I’m not careful, leads to a tension headache. We all have body-level and thought-level signs as warnings. I know from experience that my dialogue begins to sound very different when I am calm and relaxed than when I am stressed and tapped out.
Start bringing awareness to your thoughts and your body as you consider how your personal stress signals show up in your life.
Simply noticing, bringing awareness and getting curious about how your body is reacting is the first step. You can do this by saying, “Hhmmm, I wonder where this stemmed from? I wonder what I could do differently? I wonder_________?”
Asking those questions is a way for you to tune in and start paying attention to what’s happening in your body, your mind, and your emotions at the onset of stress. Then, try to notice the more subtle signs your body may be giving you as the stress is starting to buildup and becoming uncomfortable, or even unmanageable. And if you can, track it back. When did you first get a signal you barreled past? Your unnoticed signs can be eye-opening.
Another powerful tool for noticing the warning signs of stress is to view the situation from the outside as a neutral observer. When you step away and look, what do you see? What would you say about it? What brought the stress here? Using this NLP tool, called perceptual positions, helps put aside any guilt, shame, or judgment, by ‘seeing’ negative stressors from a neutral vantage point. Then, shift into problem-solving mode from there.
When you begin to see your personal warning signs more clearly, you can start putting into practice calming strategies to reset your course and move to a safe center space before you hit overwhelm. By doing this, you are building resilience while stepping into the driver’s seat of your own life with a full tank.
If you would like help noticing your personal warning signs or reducing your stress levels and overwhelm, read more about my personal coaching program, From Chaos to Calm.
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