Learning to recognize your stress level

Stress usually begins with a feeling of being challenged or threatened. Your brain signals to certain glands, which in turn send out chemical signals, and stress hormones pour into your bloodstream. The effects can be felt and/or measured immediately. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure increases, your pupils dilate, your blood volume and sodium levels increase and more blood is directed to your muscles and liver for quick energy. Normally, after the threat is over, your body automatically reverses the stress reaction and returns to normal. But if you are exposed to stress repeatedly, or if it continues without a break for long periods of time, your body can no longer recover from the stress response and you begin to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches and so on.

The above symptoms plus stomach problems and over-susceptibility to colds and sinus infections are common warning signs that your stress level is too high. However, many people do not realize that those symptoms are due to stress. Of course, they can be symptoms of some other physical ailment, but all too often they are telling you that there is too much unrelieved stress in your life. Knowing your own personality and physical condition will help you determine how much stress you can manage adequately, before you decide you need to change your stressful environment or seek some professional help.

Take the quiz above to see if your body is trying to tell you something. This test is not intended as a scientific diagnosis in any way, but merely a guide to the level of stress you are currently experiencing.

If your score is high, this does not mean you have too much stress at work, or that your personal life is too stressful. One area of your life could be impacting on the other, or you may be experiencing moderate levels of stress in two areas of your life. Stress is cumulative. You can also be a person who never learned to handle stress in a healthy manner.

Just remember that you can control the impact that stress has on your well-being as long as you are aware of it. Some people have even learned to make a moderate level of stress their motivation to reach their optimal potential. So can you.

Jane Boucher is an author and professional speaker with offices in Reno and Ohio. Reach her at 853-0226 or janeboucher@mail.com.


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