“No man is free who is not master of himself”- Epictetus, Greek Philosopher
There is a plethora of stress in our lives these days. Divorce, layoffs, threats of terrorism – these are just a few of the many things that can leave our mind, body and soul feeling anxious.
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be essential form of our emotional state for balanced growth in our life. A conscious form of stress motivates us, prepares us for things we have to face, and sometimes give us energy to take action when we need to. However, excessive stress can hinder our ability to set goals, focus on what we want to achieve and to live in harmony with our family.
Akin to a form of cholesterol, stress can motivate us to achieve higher goals or stress can destroy all our dreams before we realize its dominance. Personally I’ve found that when I am cognizant about the form of stress, I take control of my personal growth by overcoming the power of detrimental stress.
In an effort to control stress, I’ve found 5 signs that are apparent in a state of excessive stress:
Sign # 1: You Procrastinate Constantly
Procrastination forms from the denial of fighting the obvious power of stress in our life. Years ago, when I lost substantial investment in the stock market, instead of thinking forward and taking action to stop the carnage, I procrastinated by not confronting the reality. I was worsening my loss by lack of action, yet I was under intense stress that paralyzed my ability to think. I was procrastinating to the point that I was unable to do things that were essential in my life. For example, I was so nervous about going to my daughter’s school to talk to the teacher, I did not go — I missed the appointment. Stress was taking its toll on me as well as my family.
“There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind, and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.“ – Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) Founder of Buddhism.
Sign #2: Your Life Seems Chaotic
This is an apparent sign of stress and despair. If you see bills piling up on your desk with some not even opened to avoid fear of added stress, you’ve succumbed to the power of stress. I, with the fear of lack of money to pay bills, avoided opening mails that even had checks written to me. It was simply a surrender to the thoughts of defeat that stress had reined over my head.
Sign #3: Mindless Eating
Have you ever noticed yourself reaching for food or forgetting to eat meals when you are under intense stress? I tend to skip meals under intense stress, and when I do eat I lack focus on the food in front of me. This behavior stems from the fact that stress inhibits all the thought faculties of the brain and acts aggressively against any thoughts of courage or fight to dispel the power of stress. Food alters emotions. Cookies really make me feel better while I am stress ridden. It’s estimated that over 150 million people are on the diet now and most of these adults are repeaters who have tried almost everything. This is a stunning revelation that underlines pervasive power of stress in our culture.
Sign # 4: Aloofness
When feelings of sinking into a black hole take possession of your mind, it’s stress that has spelled havoc on your mind. When I lost a significant amount in my investment before, I felt feeble and aloof. It seemed that I was on an island with no hope to swim across the ocean to revive my life. I constantly chastised myself for being in the circumstances that I was in.
Sign # 5: You’re Aggressive Rather than Assertive
Aggressive behavior often arises as self defense from perceived attacks by others, but these attacks usually never eventuate. When our mind is stress ridden, we think that everyone intends to inflict emotional harm on us. I remember getting angry for paltry reasons that I could not expound in my own mind. Instead of being assertive, I was aggressive. Stress had taken over my mind, body and soul.
* * *
Here comes good news. All of what I went through was a creature of my own thoughts. In reality, I had only lost an investment. But by allowing stress to rein over my thoughts, I had enabled stress to control my thinking and obviously my life. I realized that I had to change my thoughts and habits to defeat this monster. I began by engaging my mind with things that dispelled the stress and ultimately instilled a sense of confidence about my future.
I found that ignore is bliss when it comes to stress. Take action and to your surprise, circumstances will change. The following are some steps I took to regain my confidence and ultimately to rid myself of the stress that had taken control of my mind.
Step # 1: Clutter Management
First, I took the time to go through my desk, mail, magazines, drawers, garage, basement – basically everywhere I had accumulated clutter. By eliminating this clutter, I reinforced thoughts of affirmation such as: “The more I eliminate clutter from my life, I relieve stress and create calmness for the positive thoughts.”
Step # 2: Mindfulness
I began to meditate and, by doing so, I began to live more in the present moment.
Step # 3: Write in a Journal
I began writing a daily journal. By doing this, I confronted my thoughts of despair.
Step # 4: Doing What I Enjoyed
I volunteered to work for Habitat for Humanity. The work not only brought new friends but it also made me feel proud about myself. My self-esteem rose from ashes and began acting as my strength rather than acting against me.
Step # 5: Yoga
Yoga allowed me to focus on my inner strength. I decided to do yoga daily to relax my body as well as mind.
* * *
These are just few of many positive actions I took to turn around life that was once ruled by stress. Never underestimate the power of stress to ruin your life. If you feel that you are getting in its grip, remember, you have power to come out victorious. So get up and get going.
Photo by Lisa Brewster
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30 thoughts on “5 Signs of a Stress Ridden Mind”
Once again, you have written an excellent helpful post. Just reading through your stress made me feel what you were feeling…. I think I may have to take a break to relieve some of that stress.:)
I really identified with this post with all the stress of getting my new blog ready in the last couple of weeks. I was soo excited about it, but yet I would find myself procrasting for some reason. I just couldn’t figure it out. I think it was the stress.
I think what helps me in times of stress is to take a day or two off and evaluate what’s going on and what to do to move forward. Spending some time in nature always helps and journaling and figuring out exactly what’s going on and how to push through it. It can be really hard to take time off, because the thoughts of it can create more stress if I am burried in stuff. But it is always worth it to regroup. I can do so much more and feel so much better doing it.
For me, another sign of stress is little aches and pains… I get headaches, have bouts of nausea etc.
Love your tips. Thanks. Reducing clutter and exercising is always a huge help.
I think stress is a factor for almost all of us. I agree with the symptoms that you listed above. They seem to be very accurate and perceptive. I avoid caffiene, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest to control the stress in my life. I find these techniques very effective for me.
I wrote an article along similar lines this week. It is called A Maintenance Plan For Our Minds To Avoid Burnout. Please check it out and let me know what you think!
Outstanding post! Your step #1 is properly placed. Clutter management also extends to our inner-world. I like to call this internal clutter management “allocating attention.” As usual, I will defer to the wisdom of others to better express my thought:
“… in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
~ Herbert Simon (1916 – 2001)
I have combatted stress by facing it and seeing it for what it is (a chemical reaction in the mind/body towards a situation etc., deemed to be threatening in some way. By acknowledging the reaction, allowing it to be there and not identifying with it then it is not reinforced and gradually the stressful feelings dissipate until the reaction no longer occurs.
I really like your step four. Perhaps even more important than doing things we enjoy is doing things that affirm who we are and that contribute to the world.
I don’t always enjoy writing and editing my blog, but I find great satisfaction when a post is finished and published.
Thanks again for another great post,
You are the List-Master , oh Shilpan! You have a great skill at taking a broad subject and bringing it down to a few relatable points, making it fully practical to your audience. This was very powerful as it helps us become aware of whats up, then how to overcome it. And great comments too.
Hans Selye was an early researcher into stress. He defined 2 types – distress and eustress. The second of course a positive stress like falling in love. Both can have similar biological responses but one tends to be a motivator, the other a demotivator, as you observe. Stress has a tendency to trigger the fight or flight (or freeze) response which shuts down digestion and the forebrain, the place where we have more conscious, more problem solving skills. As you observe, stress thus reduces our ability to deal with what confronts us.
A lot of it has to do with response. How we choose to respond. Articles like this help bring us awareness of the dynamics, with tools like journaling and presence. Another way we can look at stress is resistance, hence the characteristics you describe. The steps you suggest allow us to allow, to come to terms with what is.
Your point about clutter is also key, as FP observed too. External clutter is a sign of internal chaos and decluttering can help. Outer healing inner. But its also good to recognize that some people use clutter as an emotional barrier. They use it to emphasize the Aloofness aspect but in effect, are in Aloofness to how they feel. These can be very unhappy people. People who need to read this.
Now – where are those cookies…
I agree with you on the physical signs of stress. It’s important to take a break and take care of our body when it needs attention.
@ Jeff –
I just visited your blog and read your article. It’s fabulous way to remind that our body and mind both need attention as much as other goals in our life. I really enjoyed the article and I highly recommend others to read. I also would like to thank you for the Stumble on this article.
You’ve made a great point about having excitement for something yet we are reluctant to take action mainly due to fear of stress or fear of unknown that horrifies our thinking. It takes definite purpose to overcome this fear and lack of action.
@Financial Philosopher –
I agree with you. Now, when I see someone with clutter either in their car or desk or home, I tend to believe that their thoughts are dubious and at best their life is in chaos as well. This is a stereotypical thinking but for most part I’ve found it to be true.
I agree with you about having courage to face the stress. That’s why I started writing a diary mainly to capture state of despair.
Yes, doing what we enjoy is the best solution of all. When we immerse our mind and body into work that inspires our soul, we enrich our life with the influx of happiness and fulfillment.
Thank you all for the meaningful contribution,
I LOVE YOGA! I have to do at least ten minutes before work or I feel sluggish all day. I think Yoga is better than sex. Just kidding, but it’s really close.
Indeed, stress plays a major role in our lives. Yet, many of us do not realise that we need to deal rather than live with it. I most certainly agree with implementing the 5 tips that you’ve suggested!
Step #1 is a good one! I love to arrange and clear the clutter that I see right infront of me. It’s always great to have a clean desk table, tank, that’s like staring us in our face. lol
I agree with you that Yoga transcends anxiety and fear into peace.
Thanks for the kind words. I’m sure there are other ways that may work better for others. Idea is to take action once we realize that stress is overwhelming.
Yeah! Having clear desk, car and home are signs of our focus and ability to think without ambiguity.
Thank you all for the meaningful contribution,
Great article and advice. We are often on the same wavelength and this is no exception. I also try to incorporate meditation, yoga and exercise into my week to manage stress. I find that writing is a great form of creative expression that helps also.
What I am not sure is how to find time to do it all! Between kids, household duties, yoga, exercise, meditiation, reading and writing…there just aren’t enough hours in the day (and I’m not even working for a living – which I should be doing). Uh-oh…I’m stressing myself out just thinking about it. Time to go meditate!
This is an outstanding post, Shilpan. I can relate to many of these things, if not all. I have developed my own strategy to deal with three key factors that can potentially generate tremendous level of stress in my opinion, or at least in my situation. It is FGW : fear, guilt and worry. As long as I am able to free myself from these destructive traits/habits, we are on our way to happy, stressfree and successful life. Very refined writing.
This is my first response to any of Shilpan’s post. I will drop in whenever I get a chance to read many great posts by Shilpan and his fellow bloggers from this passionate community.
Good friend of Shilpan, Jay
Thank you for an excellent guest post! I find that stress is really something that can sneak up on me without me realizing it, which is why I think it is so important to watch out for “signs of a stress ridden mind”.
My favorite tip of yours is to do yoga. I have started doing it just in the past 6 months and am hooked. In fact, I last did it on Tues night (the night before I published this article).
Excellent article with excellent steps.
As the article suggests, the best way to reduce stress is to gain control over the parts of our lives we CAN change.
Since stress is often caused by the things in our life that we can’t control, the act of gaining control over the things we can is very empowering.
Attorney, CPA, Author, Blogger & Professional Motivational Speaker
What a fabulous guest post. I have definitely experienced all of those, aside from the eating one. When really under stress I seem to totally forget to eat. It honestly is the only time I lose too much weight. In fact, I don’t diet, because I always know that the next bout of stress will emaciate me anyway.
But, you have given some wonderful suggestions for coping with all this stress. I do the writing down stuff. Now I’m going to try the rest. Thank you.
I always expand my knowledge with the touch of wisdom you add to every post I write. Needless to say, you are a friend and advisor both. I agree with you about the types of stress, either positive or negative similar to chloestrol in our body. Awareness is key for the healthy, fulfilling life. It’s easy to ignore these early symptoms which eventually becomes a living nightmare.
@ Lori –
You’ve always said, great minds think alike. :)
@ Jay –
Thanks for the insightful comments. I agree with you that lots of fear and guit can drain your self-esteem with the flow of stress. One has to have awareness to fight against these destrictive forces in our life.
You are right. I was trained to perform yoga at young age. Later on, other priorities in life took my focus away but after going through stressful period in life, I staunchly believe in yoga and power of its focus on my mind, body and soul.
@ Stanley –
Thanks for the compliments. My sincere desire with this article is to make everyone think for the moment to see if they are aware of power of stress in their lives. As you’ve said there are things beyong our control. If so, why worry? If we can control the outcome by changing our habits, by all means, we shall.
Thank you all for your comments,
Great Comments, everyone. Yoga means union. In the west we have come to see yoga as physical exercises. These are important and as several observe effective. But as Patanjali outlines, Asana (postures) is only one of the 8 limbs (aspects) of Yoga. For the maximum release, try adding a few more. A little Pranayama – alternate nostril breathing. A little effortless Meditation….
Stanley, you make an interesting point. We experience stress when we feel we loose control. Its also useful to see that this arises in our perspective. We seem to lose control or gain control. This sense of control or not control is all about our story of the world. I screwed up. This can’t be happening. etc. It is the ego that experiences stress because it is the ego that feels it must control. Stress arises when the world doesn’t sync with our story about it.
What is even more powerful for releasing stress is stepping out of the idea that there is anything that needs to be controlled. Do the birds or flowers worry about that? If we can step into the sense of being OK with what is, as Eckhart Tolle speaks, we eventually step out of stress altogether. In a deeper sense, stress arises from fighting what is.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t make changes and improve our life. Just that if we’re caught in the drama of our illusory control, the only change we’re making is in our view of the illusion. Ultimately, Shilpan’s 5 steps will walk us out of the illusion altogether. Then stress will be like a line drawn on the water rather than on rock.
I blogged about your post, Shilpan and realized there is a further comment to clutter i should make, just so we’re not too quick to judge.
Its worth noting Creative Lee Silber’s observation that some creative people like ‘all away’ (put away) and some like ‘all out’. Right brain thinkers are more lateral and may like to organize things in a visual space, seen. This apprent clutter is a reflection of their non-linear organization. This is not the same thing as the clutter of expressed emotional disorder. The creative will know were things are and surround themselves with things of personal value and interest. The emotional junkie will surround themselves with chaos, meaningless distractions, and, well, trash. I also know someone who is a creative and emotionally repressed, so all things are possible. Picture a house and yard with both aspects.(laughs)
What a fabulous post Shilpan,
I agree clutter can make you feel stressed. Every time I find a home for the papers that stack up on my desk, I feel like a load has been lifted.
Stress is extremely hard on our health too, and it’s reported it leads to many health issues. All the more reason to rid our selves of most of it.
Shilpan, you really did a great job in this list. I recognize these in my own life and just thinking about ’em stresses me out :)
However its something I am actively working on so your post is well timed and appreciated. Thanks!
Yes, outer chaos often transpires into our subconsciousness through lack less thoughts and feeble mind. Avoiding clutter is an essential part of avoiding undue stress.
@ JEMi –
Thanks for the comments. I know that you’ve shown great courage in facing worst of the stress in life and we all can learn and get inspiration from you. Keep it up.
Thank you all for your comments,
@ Cath –
I also tend to forget to eat under immense stress. So, we both are in the same league as far as that goes. Did you find writing down helps in coping with stress? If so, do you write down just the sources of stress as you feel or you also write your way to fight the source?
Thank you your comments,
Thanks for another clear and well written article. Taking some simple steps like this can certainly help improve our life.
Signs of a stress-ridden mind are often symptoms of deeper issues that are overlooked or simply not addressed by conscious or unconsciosu choice. If you move to activities that distract you attention from the root causes of the stress, then this appears to be a band-aid or short-term solution to a disregarded problem. To borrow a phrase used by Mother Superior in the 1960 Robert WIse film, The Sound of Music, “You can’t run away from your problems, you need to face them!” (otherwise they will keep coming back in new forms)
Just like to add:
We are a collective of people who are (typically) stressed on a regular basis.
We make ourselves sick.
There is a good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress) but here I’m talking about the latter.
Stress is a personal, internal response to an external situation, event, circumstance.
Many of us have no stress-management strategy.
Stress causes inflammation.
Inflammation causes disease.
Craig – good point. I’ve read that stress is a major factor in between 80% and 99% of all disease. (depending on who you ask) Indeed, I am currently getting over a nasty virus infection. The virus is causal but it would not have gotten a toe-hold unless I had let myself get run down a bit. Amazing what a difference getting enough sleep can be (laughs)
Thanks for the kind words.
You’ve hit nail in the head with focus or lack of on finding the root cause of the stress and developing a conscious plan to eradicate the source. Thanks for the wisdom.
I’ve been to your site and I’m impressed with you credentials. You’ve reiterated what my great friend Davidya mentioned about the types of stress. Successful people know how to attract good stress and repel bad stress from their lives.
Thank you all for the comments,
Don’t forget about nightmares. Oh the nightmares….