I know a lot of folks who are feeling stressed right now. World events, personal issues, work (always work). What’s going on here?
1.pressure or tension exerted on a material object.“the distribution of stress is uniform across the bar”
synonyms: pressure, tension, strain“the stress is uniform across the bar”
2.a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.“he’s obviously under a lot of stress“
synonyms: strain, pressure, (nervous) tension, worry, anxiety, trouble, difficulty;informalhassle“he’s under a lot of stress”
A little stress can be a good thing– it spurs us into action, motivates us, challenges us. think about exercise– you apply stress to your body, your body adapts. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.
This stress response can go haywire, though. Sometimes it’s because of the duration and severity of the stressor (toxic stress, trauma). Sometimes it’s because something has gone wrong in our body’s or brain’s mechanisms for handling stress. And sometimes, it’s because we haven’t paid attention to or prioritized our basic needs.
Many are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” But how many times have you sacrificed something from that crucial bottom rung of the pyramid– physiological needs– for something external, like a work deadline? Everyone has done this– but when it’s the rule rather than the exception, it will start to impact your ability to cope with stress. Skipping meals, shorting on sleep, forgetting to hydrate, neglecting to move around, going days without setting foot outside, even forgoing sex with your partner– these behaviors chip away at our resilience. The hierarchy of needs is built on a base of physiologic needs, safety, and social connection– the peak of the pyramid, self-actualization, is built on these less glamorous but critical parts.
Think about a toddler having a meltdown in the middle of Target. The kid’s mom probably said no, you can’t have that toy. Is the full-on tantrum that ensues for the next twenty minutes entirely about that plastic ninja turtle? Or is the kid probably overdue for a nap, crashing from a soda earlier, hungry, and antsy from sitting in the car? We’re not that different from the screaming toddler when we get stressed out.
So next time you feel overwhelmed and stressed out and unable to cope, ask yourself this question: “have I attended to my basic needs?” Before you enter full-on freak-out mode and quit your job and move to a commune, try a quick audit:
- When did I last eat? When did I last eat fresh, healthy, and tasty food?
- Do I have to go to the bathroom?
- Did I shower recently?
- Have I had a glass of water today?
- Did I sleep for a reasonable amount of time last night?
- Does my partner remember what I look like?
- When was the last time I went outside and moved my body?
If you spot a deficit, fix it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t put anything else first (you’re the one who gets to decide– even if it doesn’t always feel like it). And remember that you are responsible for your own well-being.