Always Well Within

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How to Stop Stress: Know Your Early Warning Signs

Monthly Stress Challenges | Stress Tips

When you know your early warning signs of stress, you can head tension off at the pass.  This is such a worthwhile habit to develop because chronic stress is a killer. Too much of it kills your joy, ruins your relationships, and wrecks your health.

Take 5 minutes right now and jot down your immediate response to the following questions.  When stress starts to mount:

  • How does it feel to you?
  • What happens in your body?
  • What emotions tend to arise?
  • What types of thoughts take over?
  • What are the small signs that occur before overwhelm hits?

Here are a few examples:  irritation, frustration, heart pounding, palms sweating, muscles tightening, trouble sleeping, and craving food or another addictive substance.

Then observe yourself for the next week.  Whenever stress starts to arise, write down any early warning signs that occurred.

You may miss them at first, but immediately look back. You’ll probably be able to see them clearly.

You could use a small notebook that you carry with you or your digital device to record these early warning signs.  At the end of the week, add these indicators to your initial list of early warning signs. Now, you have a complete picture.

Monthly Stress Challenge

This month practice catching stress before it catches you.  Keep your list of early warning signs in a handy place so you’ll see and remember them.

As soon as a small early warning sign appears, take action.  Interrupt the building cycle of stress by engaging in a relaxing activity.

While we might like to believe that stress is out there and impossible to conquer, that’s not entirely true.  Even if you’re more sensitive to stress than the average person, you can learn to turn it around through awareness before it becomes a damaging factor in your life. The best way to begin is to learn your early warning signs.

Do you know your early warning signs?  I would love to hear.

P. S.  My e-course, Living with Ease, The Mindful Way to Less Stress, offers a complete roadmap for dissolving stress and preventing it from overwhelming you again.  The course combines mindfulness, self-inquiry, and supportive stress reduction techniques to help you give stress the boot.  Check out the course details here.

Thank you for being here.  If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others, every share makes a big difference.  Thank you!  May you be well, happy, and safe – always. With love, Sandra


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  1. My early warning signs are usually very physical. I can feel the tension in my stomach.
    The best way I have found to help calm myself down and get out of that “stress” mindset is to ask myself “how do I feel right now?” that breaks my thought patters and brings me back to the present.

    • Hi Zoey,

      I’m inspired to hear how tuned in your are to your signs of stress and that you have such an effective method in place for turning it around. That’s so fabulous. Thanks for sharing this with us. I’m sure it will inspire others.

      • It doesn’t always work haha but I do find that it can at least get me to a place of recognizing that this stress will pass and to just keep moving. I love your site by the way! So positive and helpful ❤️

        • I understand! We’ve had our patterns of stress for a long time and there can be underlying reasons too. How wonderful it helps some of the times and gets you to a place where you can keep moving. I’m not entirely stress free either but much better.

          Thanks so much for your kind words. They’ve made my day!!!

  2. For me there are 2 kinds of stress, Sandra. The first is sort of grows gradually and I don’t even know it is there until I begin feeling rushed and frazzeled. Like Zoey, I can also check in with my stomach and if it is tight, then I consciously relax it and try to pay attention to what might be causing this to happen while stopping what I am doing, if I can, and just breathe for a few minutes. The other is the immediate crisis sort of stress which I really do hate because it usually jerks me out of my normally peaceful state of mind into an action/ panic mode. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I am usually ok, able to think after a few minutes. One of the things that happens at the Art Center where I have my studio and teach in a shared room is that someone screws up the schedule or doesn’t write it on the board outside the classroom, and then two people show up at the same time to use the one space. The time it happened to me, I actually was ablt to think fast and take the students up to my studio for a demo for 2 hours. We ALL loved it and it started a new way for me to do make-up lessons and introduce new people to how I teach. So, I am glad it happened but for a few minutes there, I was not in a good space. And the other guy was legit—–the classroom organizer had not written that he was using the room anywhere but he had rented it. I actually learned to never trust anything at the art center but to check out every possibility and always have a plan #2.
    And I guess that you know how much I love your site and you! 🙂

    • This is so helpful, Jean! I like the idea of differentiating between the stress that builds slowly and sudden stress. What a huge success to be able to deal with the double scheduling at the art center so gracefully. I love how you took such valuable lessons away from that experience and how you don’t hold negativity about it, but are flowing with how reality is. So inspiring!

      Thanks for your affirming words! It must be my day! So grateful.

  3. Hello Sandra…I totally can relate to what Jean had to say about the different kinds of stress…that sudden panic versus the slow build up.

    Over the years, with lots of practice I would add, I’ve learned to separate ME from my mind and the thoughts running through it. Then I give my mind permission to run amok if that’s what it wants to do…and I’ve learned that the very giving of permission slows everything down. Giving ME the opportunity to step into my belief that something wonderful will come out of whatever the situation happens to be. Then I can breathe!

    • That’s so key, isn’t it – knowing that we aren’t our thoughts and emotions and not feeling guilty for what arises in the mind and heart. But not taking it too seriously either. You captured this beautifully, Elle. Acceptance is so important. I love your commitment to expecting the best outcome.

  4. Becoming aware of our bodies reactions to stress is so important to helping us ease through it. My warning signs tend to be a racing heart, a physical feeling of excess energy, and rapid shallow breathing. I try to be mindful and practice coming into the now and relaxed, slow breathing. Almost always works for me.

    • Hi Debbie,

      This is so helpful. I’m glad you shared this sign in particular as it happens for me too: “a physical feeling of excess energy.” Mindfulness helps me too.

  5. I know those warning signs, had them today when I had some stress over money and then took on someone else’s emotions. I get tired, often back pain and if I don’t pull myself up in time the day vanishes- I am blessed though to have so many tools to manage this and rise above and usually head for a beach walk Thanks great article xx

    • Hi Suzie,

      You know yourself so well! I’m so happy that you have such a beautiful beach nearby and so many good stress-reducing tools. I’m glad the article resonated for you.

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