Stress, it seems to be the number one constant in life. The truth is, we do actually need to have some level of stress in our lives. It’s what keeps us motivated and active – without it we become lethargic and never get anything done. But like anything you can get too much of a “good” thing.
A way to think of stress is to picture it as a continuum. On one end we have a lack of stress which can lead to apathy. On the other end? That way lies burnout my friend.
We want to aim for somewhere in the middle (and everyone’s middle will look a little differently). In the middle we have enough stress to make sure we are motivated and have the push we need to get up and get moving every day but not enough that we are so stressed out that we will burst into tears if we are asked to do one.more.thing.
I can’t be the only one who has felt that way, right?
University for me was super stressful. I pushed myself to get good grades while also competing and traveling around the world as an Irish Dancer. Which is why in my second year I ended up making several trips to the doctor to see if I had an ulcer.
Yup, an ulcer.
Thankfully, I didn’t actually have an ulcer but I did need to make some big decisions about my life. Ultimately I ended up leaving Irish dancing and over time my gastrointestinal distress disappeared.
Which I now realize was me heading towards the burnout end of the stress continuum.
How to Recognize What Stress Looks Like
Stress shows up in our lives in different ways. For me, it can be feeling like I’m burning a hole inside my stomach. Other times it shows up as zoning out and mindlessly doom scrolling through twitter. At least that’s how the last year looked.
And that’s where mindfulness comes in.
It helps me to recognize when I’m heading towards stress, overwhelm and burnout and how to pull myself back.
First step, taking a moment to STOP.
This is a practice I teach to my students all the time. As I like to remind them (repeatedly, lol) if we don’t know what’s here, we can’t work with what’s here. The best way to figure this out is to stop and to actually tune in to what is going on inside your body (thoughts, emotions and sensations).
Our breath is one of our most powerful tools and we can use it to guide us through moments of stress and difficulty.
Remember to breathe when things get tough – honestly, you would be surprised how often we forget to breathe in these moments which leads us into panic mode.
Every single time you notice that feeling of stress in your body? STOP and breathe.
Stress is first felt inside of the body and the thing that keeps it around? Our mind and those lovely little thoughts we have sometimes.
Thoughts and judgements about our work, how much we do, how fast we do it, if we are good enough at the work we do, etc.
And now that we have these thoughts we often end up feeling worse.
Which is where mindfulness comes in as it helps us to notice our thoughts and how to keep them from taking over and spiralling into that monkey mind/inner critic.
Tune in and notice what’s here
When you start to pay attention to your thoughts and to what’s going on inside your body, you have the choice in how you want to respond in the moment.
Feeling overwhelmed and like you have too many things to do? STOP, check in and see what’s going on. What are your thoughts telling you? If you notice that you’re having a lot of judgements, release them, come back to the breathe and notice the shift inside your body.
In times of stress and overwhelm, the number one thing we want to do, is to not make things worse. When we slow down and breathe we have more control over our response in the moment. This ability to choose it what can help you to make a choice that feels more helpful to you long term.
To learn more about how to manage feelings of stress and to stop yourself from moving into panic mode check out my new program STOP the Panic.
Inside this program I teach you the therapeutic and mindfulness strategies that I have used myself and with my clients and students over the years to great success.
These skills will help you to feel calm in a crisis because you will know exactly what to do in the moment when overwhelm strikes.
And right now it’s available for only $37.
It’s available now with each new training (less than 30 minutes) released every week.
Click the image above to sign up and join me on the inside.