Quiz: How Stressed Are you?

StressAllowing stress to become a routine part of our lives can take its toll on us mentally and physically. Not only is stress linked to many health concerns, but it presents each of us with a great distraction from the things in our lives that mean the most. Like depression or any addiction, stress should be considered as a serious invasion on one’s mental health and should be dealt with as a foreign intruder, compromising our fullest experience of life.

If you notice that you’re experiencing a lot of stress, here are a few things you can do right away to start to feel better:

Stand up to your inner critic: Much of our stress arises, not from our experiences alone, but from what we are telling ourselves about our experiences in our minds. In her blog “Silence the Inner Voice That’s Stressing You Out,” psychologist Lisa Firestone states, “Many of us feel concern when we have more things we need to do or want to do than we believe we can get done. Very often, however, we are placing too much pressure on ourselves and setting our expectations too high. In effect we are setting ourselves up, and literally scheduling ourselves out, to get stressed.” The “critical inner voice” is an internal commentary we all possess that criticizes our performance and undermines our accomplishments. It tends to feed on and fuel our stress levels by telling us, “You’ll never get this done! You’re going to fail. You can’t take this pressure.” By identifying this inner critic and noting when it starts to cloud our thinking, we can stop it from overwhelming us and heightening our stress levels. We can calmly separate this destructive attitude from our real point of view and take calmer, more productive actions that are in our best interest. As Dr. Firestone said, “If we were to challenge these negative thoughts, we would soon realize that not only is this destructive thought process amplifying our stress levels but it is actually causing us much of our anxiety in the first place.”

Meditate: Studies have shown mindfulness meditation to be a proven method for reducing stress and anxiety levels. Meditation allows us to quiet our minds, while getting to know our thoughts without letting them overpower us. Stress tends to worsen when we feel overwhelmed by the thoughts or “critical inner voices” that are commenting on various aspects of our lives. “When you’re sitting in meditation, it’s like you’re watching a movie of all your thoughts, and, over time, what happens is that you just come to know that movie so well. And it can no longer take you off your spot,” said psychologist Donna Rockwell in an interview with PsychAlive. “They say thoughts are like passing clouds, and if we can come to observe them that way, they don’t have control over us.”

Exercise: With busy schedules that contribute to our high stress levels, it can be hard to set aside the time and energy required for exercise. However, keeping active is a key step to combating stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.” Taking time to be physically active is one of seven essential activities of mindfulness expert Dr. Daniel Siegel’s “Healthy Mind Platter.” Thus, incorporating exercise into your routine can help promote, not only a healthy body, but a balanced life and calm mind.

As you start to stand up to your stress (particularly your inner critic that causes stress) by taking actions that help you feel calmer and more mindful, you are likely to learn a lot about yourself. As you take this journey, it’s important to have what Dr. Siegel describes as a curious, open, accepting and loving (COAL) attitude toward yourself. Be wary of times when your mind tries to trick you into feeling overwhelmed by your emotions. Remember that life is full of messiness and challenges that we can’t control. What we can control is how we cope with these challenges. We can use the tools available to us to build our resilience and live a less stressful life.

So how much does stress influence your life? What causes you the most stress? And how stressed are you? Take this quiz to get an evaluation of how stressed you really are? Once you have taken this test, read PsychAlive’s Stress Key Topic and begin your journey to a life of less stress.  Click here to begin

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