You’ll sleep when you’re dead. Team no sleep. You’ve heard these phrases before. The truth is, it’s only sustainable for a while. Our mind and body will eventually show the wear and tear from years of pushing beyond what is healthy. We can only wear a game face for so long before that mask begins to crack. You might get aches and pains and stress-related illnesses. Stress can also make being patient with loved ones difficult.
There are some other costs that we may have yet to consider. Science shows us that someone who has endured highly stressful environments/situations for an extended period experiences brain changes. The part of the brain that produces emotions, fear,, and impulsiveness grows larger. What does that mean? It means we get used to our norm being feeling anxious and chaotic. And what does that do to the body over time? It weakens our body’s ability to fight disease over time. It doesn’t matter what the source of high stress is. It can be ongoing high stress from work, relationships, etc. These things impact your immune system.
Stress increases your risk of getting sick.
Have you stopped taking care of yourself and instead taking care of everyone else? Checking within to see how you feel and what you need is essential in lowering stress. If you sometimes think emotionally and can’t pinpoint why: There could be a huge disconnect,, and learning what you need is critical! Ask yourself often: “How am I feeling? What do I need right now?” These are preventative measures you can take today, to prevent prolonged stress from turning into something else.
You may have endured very toxic situations for so long that your way to get through it, whether in childhood or more recently, is not to feel the stress from it. Emotional numbing is our brain’s way of keeping us safe from intense emotions when not in safe conditions. Examples are an inability to recall details from certain stressful life events or difficulty knowing your feelings. There are ways to can help you work through it.
Know how your body responds when you’re at different levels of stress. We all react to our bodies when we’re stressed. Even if you tend to numb your emotions, you can still be observant about what your body does. (Ie: pace, face feeling hot, stomach discomfort, eye twitch, sweat, etc.).
Learn what your body does at the low level of experiencing stress. Know what your body does at the middle level and intense level. The extreme level is more evident for most. Learning the reactions at low and moderate levels is essential to do things that will bring down your stress. Make it a habit to no longer wait until you’re under this intense pressure to try to calm down because it will be much more complicated. Working with a therapist can teach you various ways to reduce stress for a healthier life.
Written by: Natasha D. Oates, Award-winning therapist & marriage counselor