5 Signs you're out of balance
NPR published this article last month about the state of stress in the US today. Well, it's pretty bad. 1 in 4 Americans reported feeling under a great deal of stress in the past month. That's a lot of people! And those are just the people who are aware they are under stress. Chronic stress isn't always as recognizable because when something is constant you just sort of accept its existence as normal. As the article points out, chronic stress takes a big toll over time. But how big a toll? Because if you don't notice it and it just creeps up on you how are you supposed to recognize the signs? What exactly is stress? Of the 26% who said they are living in a state of stress, 27% (another 1 in 4) reported it being due to chronic illness. Now that is a nasty loop. Stress is a sickness and can also create more heightened illness such as pain, cancer, diabetes, weight gain, etc. Today I will focus on 5 signs you are living out of balance - 3/5 signs have to do with your physical health.
If you are living with chronic stress it will eventually show up in your body. Your mind can only withstand so much before it will try and get your attention. Showing up as illness or poor health is your mind and body getting your attention - by giving you something you simply can't ignore. If ignored long enough you might experience burn out, a mental breakdown, and total exhaustion.
Sign #1 - Poor Sleep
How is your sleep? How did your sleep used to be? How many hours per night are you getting and are they consistent? Do you toss and turn or wake at 3AM wide awake? Can you shut your mind off and allow yourself to sleep? Sleep is one of the most crucial indicators of health because it's how your mind and body repair and heal. It's when your body can take care of itself best and rejuvenate.
Sign #2 - Poor Health
In general, how is your health? Have there been any major changes lately? Health is a pretty broad topic but what I see with chronic stress can include poor digestion, weight gain, acne, constant nausea, unexplained pain, shortness of breath, bloat, and exhaustion. It is not normal to experience any of these for a prolonged period of time (more than 7 days consistently). You can face the symptom and get some relief or pull up the root of what's creating the stress and watch your body heal itself almost over night. I've seen clients, who can correctly identify the cause of their stress, miraculously be out of pain or drop weight over night.
Sign #3 - Consuming an Abundance of Alcohol, Sugar, or Fat
I wrote about emotional eating here and address why we crave things like sugar and fat. Alcohol, sugar, and fat can do two things - they can numb stress or take the edge off and they can temporarily release a hefty dose of happy hormones which will alleviate the effect stress is having on the body. Just take note if you're craving these things or eating them mindlessly. The solution isn't to cut them out all together because they are serving some purpose. Know that when you address the stress you will naturally crave less of these things.
Sign #4 - Emotionally Exhausted
Do your emotions seem to get the best of you? Do you find yourself crying without reason or getting angry easily? You know what it feels like to be totally mentally and emotionally exhausted - very limited capacity for deep conversation, difficult to check in with your spouse at the end of the day, and all you want to do is curl up in front of the TV. Mental exhaustion can look like you're just really tired but you may also find yourself withdrawing from social situations or having drastic mood swings from day to day.
Sign #5 - Can't Focus
Do you have a hard time focusing on the task at hand or spending large amounts of time on any one thing? Do you find your attention straying easily? When you're overly stressed your bandwidth for new information or intentional focus is lessened big time. You basically have no space left in your head for anything! Think of all the areas of your life as filling up a huge bathtub. But instead of there being one nozzle that fills it there are about twenty. When you're stressed it's because your tub is overflowing! Focus and being present are just pouring more into an overly filled tub, it has no where to go but to spill out.
You don't have to live in chronic stress, in fact I really encourage you not to! If not dealt with chronic stress will start to effect your relationships, work, and overall well-being as well as your physical health. There is a better way! Be sure and check out my new journal course - 14 Days of Balance: A self-guided journal course here. Spend 10 minutes a day with your journal and start to bring balance back into your life.