How Much Is Stress Affecting You?

I have an extremely stressful job. Every day at work for me revolves around the health and well being of the student athletes that I work with. During our busy times (which this year, was basically the entire year) this can mean 10-11 hour days during the week, and at least one weekend day spent at work. All of these long hours and high pressure situations lead to… you guessed it, stress overload.

Late spring and summer though is our quiet time, and the past week has been gloriously calm and stress free. I was talking with one of my coworkers about it yesterday, remarking about the awesome amount of energy that I’ve had the past few days, and how strange it felt to still feel energized, even by the end of the day for the last several days. It’s especially strange, because the past several days have been spent catching up on greuling paperwork, which is incredibly frustrating for someone who is not used to sitting at a desk/computer all day every day. (Other ATs out there know exactly what I’m talking about… am I right?)

My point is this: Nothing drastic has changed over the past week or so. My diet is the same. My sleep patterns are the same. My workouts are the same. The only thing that has changed is my stress level. I’ve gone from high-stress all day every day, to seriously mindless paperwork. Stress free. And despite the fact that I’m wasting away at my computer for hours per day, my energy has skyrocketed. The only thing I can attribute this to is my lack of stress. And not only is my energy better, but I’ve been in a generally better mood, I haven’t had headaches, and my focus has improved.

Seriously, who knew stress was such a life-suck? I mean, I did, but I guess I haven’t thought about it lately. Check out this table I found from the Mayo Clinic. Looking down this list of stress effects, I could check off probably about 75% of them over the past several months. No bueno!

Common effects of stress …
… On your body … On your mood … On your behavior
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

Source: American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” report, 2010

I knew that I was overly stressed and I knew that I had gotten extremely, chronically tired this year, but I never stopped to think about why. I knew that I had become often cranky and irritable, and that my mental focus was starting to waver, but again, I never stopped to think that it was probably something I can control.  Of course I can’t control the fact that I have stress at work, as that is just the nature of the career path I’ve chosen. (And to be honest, what job doesn’t have stress?), but what I can control is the way that I deal with the stress in what little down time I do have.

I can’t always depend on downtime like I have now to de-stress, because quite honestly there is only a very limited part of the year that I can relax like this. What I can do is try some techniques now so that I can keep doing them towards the end of this summer once things get a little crazy at work again.

One of my goals for this summer is to start meditating regularly, hoping that improving my meditation skills will help me during high-stress times. I’m not very well versed in this yet though, so stay tuned for another post about my adventures as a beginner-meditator!  I also recently read this great article from Dr. Mark Hyman about ways to decrease stress. He’s got some great thoughts and suggestions here, and if you are an easily stressed person I suggest you click on over and take a few minutes to read it!  Deep breathing and changing the way I think are two of his tips that I might have to work on as well, as I often let my thoughts and worries spiral out of control, only leading to more stress. Decreasing this horrible cycle is a goal of mine, and something I definitely need to work on if I want to keep from getting burnt-out, which is an all too common problem in the AT world.

Do you have a stressful job or work in a high-stress office? How do you cope with work stress? Do you find that stress affects you physically? Do you meditate, and how often?

4 thoughts on “How Much Is Stress Affecting You?

  1. I hear you about getting stressed out frequently. I also turned to meditation as a way to gain some perspective and clarity about life, which has helped me reduce my level of stress. As a PhD student I found myself in a stressful environment every day. I graduated almost a year and a half ago and I am still trying to find ways to re-train my brain in terms of dealing with stress. Breaking the cycle and forming new habits in response to the environment is key. I use exercise as a way to de-stress, but meditation has also helped. I found a great introductory meditation program called Get some Headspace ( It is a guided meditation program that you can run from your computer or your smart phone (just 10 min a day to start with). It takes you through how to meditate, things to think about, how to solve issues with your meditation, and they have some really great animations. They have a free 10 day trial that I would definitely recommend trying. Can’t wait to hear what solutions you find work for you!

  2. I’ve had a crazy stressful year, on top of the already heavy course load I’m carrying. It got to a point where it was all I could do to get myself to classes every day- no motivation for anything, tired all the time, and it really affected my appetite which added to the vicious cycle of anxiety over not eating right and worrying I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my schedule. I have definitely found that meditation or “mindfulness” has REALLY helped me get through those tough times. I still try to meditate 2-3 times a week, and it is very useful in keeping stress levels at a workable level! I hope you have some success with it!!

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