Listen to your teeth! How your body tells you about stress.
Your body knows you better than you do, so listen to it - your stress might be on the rise!
Who else out there has a tell? That physical thing you do when the stress levels start to increase? I know I do, it’s my teeth that go. I find myself gritting them and grinding them. I only realise how tense my jaw is much later when I realise I’ve been biting down for ages.
I used to think it was an annoyance, try to ignore it, or not let it even register but now I understand it’s my body’s way of telling me I’m experiencing feelings of stress. It’s like an early warning signal, in fact I look at it now as being super-helpful and not an annoyance at all. It helps me stop, notice and then re-set.
Take a minute to think about your stress signs - what are they? A great way to do this is to take a moment to close your eyes and scan down through your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Are your eyes tight? Is your forehead in a frown? Maybe your shoulders are scrunched up, or your back is hunched? Perhaps you are holding off that much-longed for toilet break? Or the opposite may be true - maybe you just can’t stop going. Are you tapping your fingers or toes?
What Does Your Body Need?
Once you spot what your signals take some time to work out what your body might be trying to tell you. What is it you need? Maybe you need to breathe (tight chest) or is your body crying out for movement (sore back?), maybe you need to release some pent up energy (toe tapping).
Stress builds like a snowball. The more you feel the effects the more you react and produce nasties like cortisol and adrenalin. So stopping, scanning and re-setting is a great way to break the chain. If you get the levels of these nasties down then you have a great chance at reducing your stresses.
Top Physical Signs Of Stress
According to Web MD these are the top signs of physical stress (but get to know your own body and makes sure you can recognise your personal stress signs).
Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
I made it on the list! Yay! Or should that be oh no? Seriously take a check through the list for things you might do often and have a think about what might be the cause.
Stop, look, listen
We are often encouraged to keep going, especially in a busy environment like the workplace or a hectic home, but stopping just for a few moments can be what you need to prevent the stress taking over.
Why not add a body scan exercise into your daily routine? Then you can see the signals and do something to change it.
When you think about it you lose more time in a day to stress than the few minutes it takes to scan what your body. So get listening and start soothing that stress away!
Kelly Herrick is a coach & collaborator who helps people access more freedom & joy. She is also the strategic lead in an international design agency, a painter and mum of two boys.