According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America Survey (2015), thirty-four percent of Americans report that their stress has increased over the past year. This is not surprising. It is often challenging for most of us to accurately assess how much stress we are experiencing. I call this phenomena “tolerance to stress.” We have a tendency to habituate to increasing levels of stress, and therefore, to not recognize how high the stress level has become, until we begin developing stress-related symptoms. We often think our stress level is at six when it really is closer to an eight, on a ten-point scale.
So how can we get better at more accurately assessing our stress? When we are under increasing levels of stress, many times the first activities to go are our self-care practices. With increasing demands and responsibilities, we begin telling ourselves that we don’t have time today for our self-care (eg. take a walk, write in our journal, play with our children, meditate, relax for twenty minutes). One of the best ways I’ve learned to assess if your stress level is increasing is to pay attention to your self-care practices. A decrease in your regular self-care practices is a valuable sign that your stress level is increasing.
- Identify and write down what one to two self-care practices you currently do on a regular basis
* Stress in America Survey (2015), Center for Organizational Excellence, American Psychological Association