A Litmus Test for Stress

April 20, 2017


A Litmus Test for Stress

The fast pace of modern day living is at times so chaotic that we rarely find the time to
catch our breath, or take a moment for ourselves. Operating at these higher arousal levels
for extended periods of time, day in and day out finds us often accepting this as the norm.
Even if we do find a moment to try and relax, it is often difficult due to the cortisol and
adrenalin pumping through our bodies along with the pressures and demands that await
us all.

Sometimes pressure and stress can be helpful and positive, such as ‘eustress’. It can
motivate us and enable us to stay focused and work towards a goal or getting things done.
However, high levels of stress or pressure, or specifically chronic stress, impacts
negatively on many levels of our well-being.

It lowers our immune system, increases our negative thinking and can contribute to
feelings of worry and agitation. It can also distort our perceptions and can significantly
contribute to experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Overall, it makes us
vulnerable to physical and psychological ‘dis-ease’.

So, how do we manage this? A useful litmus test is to just stop for a moment throughout
the day and ask yourself ‘How am I right now?’ Just checking in with yourself, monitoring
your arousal level and identifying what you are thinking about and how you are feeling, can
make it easier to navigate the constant stream of thoughts and emotions that we

If you notice your mind is racing and you feel quite tense, just take a minute to settle - drop
your shoulders, allow your breathing to find its own natural rhythm and focus on your
external environment, such as practicing mindfulness around the room or looking outside
your window. The key is to focus on your external environment if you are highly stressed,
not ‘internalise’ (go within) as this will make you feel worse. In fact, even focusing on a
visual stimuli such as a painting or a nice lamp can be very helpful to allow your nervous
system to settle and so you can start to relax.

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