21 Wake-Up Signs You’re Dealing With Chronic Stress

Work stress, financial stress, relationship stress, health stress, parental stress . . . everyone experiences stress, and to a degree, everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is something we all experience, some more frequently than others.  

But when does it transcend “stress” and become something more significant, causing deeper issues physically and psychologically? Take 10 minutes to reflect. If Sundays start and that dreadful feeling at the thought of going into the office on Monday kicks-in, your standard stress may have turned to crippling anxiety and debilitating depression.  It’s time to take a step back and identify if you’re beginning to cross the threshold.

Our bodies were equipped with life-saving anxiety; the stuff that teaches us how to stay safe, defend ourselves from harm, and to let us know when a threat to our lives or livelihood is approaching, like a bear in the wilderness. But we’re talking “every so often” kind of stress. Yet, we’ve evolved as a species and within our always-on, competitive culture, that sporadic, every-now-and-then kind of stress has seeped into our everyday lives.

Think: huge benchmark to hit… three times a day, every day. Will our IPO be successful, major meetings to prepare for… twice a week kind of stress. Your child is consistently getting poor grades, your wife is depressed because she’s not getting pregnant, your expenses keep increasing to maintain your lifestyle, your parents are beginning to suffer major health issues, your boss just retired and left you to pick up her workload … the list goes on.

Stress all the time is not healthy, normal, nor is it something to gloss over or ignore. Over time you’ll start to notice physical and emotional symptoms of this underlying issue (and oftentimes, it doesn’t take much time at all for these to kick in).

  • Compromised immune system (getting sick all of the time, and having a harder time recovering)
  • Increased or suppressed appetite
  • Changes in weight (weight loss or weight gain, with struggle to find equilibrium)
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Inability to focus; forgetfulness, disorganization
  • Digestive distress; stomach pain and cramping, bloating, and bowel dysfunction
  • Palpitations/irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of sleep, insomnia, night waking
  • Clenching, grinding, and tight/painful jaw
  • Feeling nervous, sweaty or clammy hands, trembling or shaking
  • Short, rapid breathing
  • Sense of hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability, aggravation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Low energy, loss of interest in social activities or hobbies
  • Dry mouth
  • Drug use, alcohol use, cigarette use (outside of ordinary use)
  • Nail biting; nervous tics and tendencies
  • Panic attacks
  • Prolonged/sustained anxiety
  • Depression

If any of this list sounds a little too familiar, it’s time to take a step back and assess your situation. Let’s re-evaluate your priorities, your time-management and work-life balance, as well as the quality of your relationships. Enlist a professional to help, a psychotherapist or psychologist or qualified executive coach to help you process what matters to you most and to hold you accountable to get there. Not only is everything on the above list unhealthy, but many can contribute to disease and even more significant health problems.

Nothing is worth sacrificing your health or your happiness. If you’re dealing with chronic stress, it’s time to break the cycle and start living a healthy, happy, free life. Inquire about support now.

Pressures To Be Happy Are Making You Unhappy — Here’s How

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

Do you catch yourself scrolling through Instagram or your newsfeed only to be barraged with happy families on another Bali vacation, news stories about your college buddy’s start-up turned unicorn getting acquired,  endless motivational memes, or yet another engagement photo?

If you’re rather content with where your life’s at, and you feel completely secure within your own state of happiness and progress, the supersacharine imagery out of a Netflix original romcom might make you even happier. The thing is, it’s quite rare to feel 100-percent secure — so the constant influx of “Positive, positive, positive!” visual messaging might leave you feeling in a funk about your own life.

Are the pressures to be as happy as those around you leaving you with a feeling of dissatisfaction?  In part, this comes down to comparing yourself to others. “Sandra is thriving,” you think as you scroll past yet another photo of a friend on a white sand beach with a frozen drink in hand, mere days after her lavish camel-riding excursion in Marrakech. “I wish I could be that happy.” And BAM — it’s like all your energy is sapped. It’s almost as if we can’t accept that happiness can coexist with the often, well… kind of sh*tty parts of life we all encounter. Slowing funding. Spousal Arguments. Sick kids. Toxic Workplaces. Not being on vacation.

We see the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list and think to ourselves we better hurry to achieve before we age out of the Young Professional’s Organization.   And then there are the self help books and self care gurus blasting the newest marketing jargon and mega-billionaires like Beyonce and Jay-Z going vegan and we feel like maybe we’re doing something wrong. Today’s onslaught of headlines and heavily curated images of our friends online has caused the daily pressures to measure up to our peers to make us feel like we are failing at, well, our life.  

In the (particularly irreverent) book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, author Mark Manson hones in on this very point. “The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

While I don’t necessarily believe striving for more joy and present contentedness are mutually exclusive, I do believe that coming to terms with negative emotions and experiences — that is, confronting them head on versus packing them away — can be largely beneficial. Frankly, I think the chase to be happy at all times by society’s standard is unrealistic and marketing exploitation, and that feeling peaceful should be our everyday baseline.

Burying or suppressing your negative feelings can actually contribute to worsened mental health and a negative physiological response in the body. Conversely, embracing said emotions could give you a sense of empowerment, in part because you know that despite the pain, it’s not going to kill you. In that way, you take some of your control back. Mindfulness with your more difficult feelings and experiences can help you cope better with challenges and trauma and in one study, showed that it also helped reduce prescription drug dependency.

My advice?

  1. Give your negative emotions some love. In other words, hug yourself instead of judge yourself. Try to understand where that feeling is coming from, and why. See what you can do to show it some patience and TLC. It’s kind of like ripping a bandaid off; it’s a little terrifying at first to confront a bad feeling (in lieu of sprinting in the opposite direction), but it’s so much better when you get it done.

  2. Next, find what valuable experience you gained from the hard situation.  Every difficulty comes with an opportunity to grow or can become the source of our life’s purpose.  What did you take away from the challenge that you will know to do better next time, or what part of your story can you share and advocate on behalf of others?

  3. Stop comparing. Listen, friend. Sandra has the same sh*t going on as you do. Yes, Marrakech looked incredible, and she had a seriously enviable husband and 2.5 children, but these are her highlights — and by no means a call for comparison. She’s not posting about her dad’s cancer diagnosis, her impending divorce, or the fact that she didn’t get the promotion she was vying for at work.

The idea that you can create an even better life for yourself doesn’t mean your current life sucks, or that bad things magically disappear with the right combination of vision boards, prayer, and self-development seminars – OK? While there’s no prevention from experiencing fender benders, a parent passing, a broken heart, delayed flights, and rude cashiers if you’re going to live life,  life will happen. It’s how you handle it that counts. Emotionally distancing yourself from pain or rooting into victimization are the defense mechanisms that will keep your life stuck while your colleagues and friends soar, making all those headlines and IG posts all that more painful.

So check yourself and ask trusted advisers or book an appointment with a psychologist for a  check-in if you have any underlying negative feedback loops. And if not, just get in the game of life,  and instead of seeking the elusive happy train, go inside to make peace right where you’re at.

6 Things To Do To Find Your Joy Again, Post-Divorce

Everyone has a different divorce experience. While some women or men may experience a sense of relief as well as reduced stress, most others begin this new chapter with stress, depression, and worry. In fact, if you’ve experienced depression before, you’re more likely to experience it again after separating (Men are twice as likely to experience post-divorce depression).

Regardless of where you’re at emotionally, many new divorcées are faced with the “now what?” — how do you find your happiness again? How do you identify solo to the world you exist in. And dating? For many, the date-on-demand culture has changed beyond their imagination! It’s easier for some than others, but we chatted with men and women who have been through it and came out on the other side, thriving. Here’s what they have to say.

    • Reconnect with friends. You’ll want a strong support system around you during this time — and going forward! Have you lost touch with friends due to your marriage?  It’s time to rekindle old friendships and create new ones so you have people you trust to turn to. These people will help carry you through the ups and downs of a major life change, and bring fresh energy, excitement, kindness, and laughs when you need it most. 
    • Get into (or find new) hobbies. Much of your identity may have been rooted in who you were in relation to your spouse. Reclaiming and rediscovering your own identity isn’t as simple as “get a new hobby.” Start by nesting time and energy into what sparks your joy.  Maybe it’s fostering dogs or advocating for pregnancy rights. At the very least, it’ll be fun, and a great way to take your mind off things for a bit.
  • Exercise. There’s no better gift you can give to yourself than the gift of health. “Keeping yourself active is crucial,” said Alicia, who divorced in her early 50s. Endorphins from exercise provide an excellent form of mood therapy, and focusing on a goal gives you something positive to rely on during this new time. Additionally, exercise can be powerfully social — you may meet a new group of friends by going consistently to the same yoga studio or through a run club.
  • Get to therapy. Suppressing negative emotions is a surefire way to create bigger problems for yourself. While some of these tactics you’ll employ focus on a distraction, it’s imperative that you come face to face with what’s mentally and emotionally ailing you in order to properly, fully heal — and release! The safest and best way to do this is through therapy with a licensed professional. 
  • Do something spontaneous. Exercise your freedom! “Find one thing that you haven’t been able to do in your relationship, and go do it,” said Alicia. “When I was married I was never able to travel. After my divorce, I went backpacking through Yosemite, went to a wedding in Aruba, visited ruins in Tulum with my daughter, and traipsed through Europe trying every restaurant I could find.” She suggested taking inventory on what you’ve been missing out on — do you want to go back to school or travel the world? Now’s your time. “Do something kind for yourself.” 
  • Give yourself time. Be patient, and don’t put yourself on a timeline. Everyone will process this huge life change differently, and at a different speed. Let go of your expectations, refer back to all of the aforementioned tips, and don’t interrupt the process. Let yourself heal on your own schedule.

Divorce and break-ups are a grieving process.  Expecting yourself to be over the marriage the minute the papers are signed is unrealistic. Time will be the biggest healer, but what you do with the time will determine how well you heal and the sooner you can move on with your life. Most important, be compassionate to yourself during this journey.