A real eye-opener when I first started studying stress management was the importance of paying attention to your physical body. I had to learn to recognize various physical symptoms of stress – everything from hyperventilating to trouble swallowing to neck pain to a racing heart to dizziness.
Your body often tells you that there’s a problem with stress before your mind actually picks up on it. So I might be going along in my day, working to meet three deadlines, and not be mentally aware of how much pressure I am experiencing and how my stress level is steadily climbing. But my body will tell me – through the pain in my neck, tension in my gut, and my quickened breathing.
If I pay attention to these physical symptoms, I can take steps to calm myself down before my stress level spins out of control. Say, take a time-out for some deep breathing exercises, or take a five-minute garden break, or go make a cup of fragrant, herbal tea.
If I can slow down physically, then go back to my work, I am more likely to remain calm and in control (and, incidentally, meet those deadlines!). If I ignore the physical symptoms and just plow on ahead, then my stress will continue to skyrocket until panic hits, sending any hope of meeting those deadlines out the window.
It pays to pay attention.