Self-care and Stress Management - Understand Your Stress Through Physical Signs

3-min read
Healthy mind
'There was a period when I often felt tired and dizzy and had gained weight due to irregular eating schedules. I thought it was "normal" for everyone and expected myself to tough up and get used to it. I endured the symptoms. Slowly and eventually, I lost my passion and motivation. Although I had a tight schedule and knew exactly what to do next, I felt bored and aimless. It became difficult to get up on workdays, and the slightest thing would get on my nerves. It was then I realized that I was burnt out at work.'
When we encounter or believe that our lives are in threat or danger, our body would automatically activate the system to prepare us to fight, run away, or sometimes freeze. Those are what we called fight/flight responses. Nowadays, we seldom face life threatening situations, but our fight/flight mode is always on! That means we are continuously under stress. Our modern threats are usually endless deadlines, conflicts with others, rumination about the past and worries about the future, and more. With pressure continues to escalate, we may have different physical signs, including:
  • Shallow and rapid breaths, racing heartbeat;
  • Dizziness, tiredness;
  • Aches and pains including headache, chest pain, shoulder and back pain, muscle tension;
  • Common irritable bowel syndrome symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation;
  • Change of sleep including difficulty falling asleep, broken sleep, early awakening, having nightmares, not feeling refreshed after a night of sleep;
  • Change of eating habit e.g. eat significantly less or more than usual
  • Change of weight
  • Frequent sickness related to weakened immune system 
"I am just tired." Very often we think they are just something physical when these can actually be stress reactions. Most of the time we ignore them or use other quick fixes, hoping the symptoms would go away because "we got no time for that". Our body is constantly communicating with us, hinting us to do something to feel better and to take care of ourselves. If we are able to notice these signals and practice self-care earlier, we might be able to prevent burnout or other health issues. 

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