Sneaky Stress & How To Deal With It

Sneaky Stress & How To Deal With It

Sometimes we know we are stressed out, other times we notice other symptoms and wonder why. Why do I keep having these headaches? Why is my stomach upset so often? How come I’m so grumpy?

I’d love if you paused for a few minutes right now and wrote a list of your stress symptoms.

If we become more conscious of our symptoms we can more quickly recognize them when they show up.

The options are numerous, in addition to the ones I just mentioned, here are some more:

  • not sleeping well
  • flat affect (just not feeling much of anything)
  • gastro-intestinal changes
  • tears close to the surface
  • tight breathing
  • difficulty concentrating

These are just some of the more common ones.

So, what do we do once we notice? A lot depends on what is causing the stress.

If the stress is coming from an overall high level of workload, then creating a work plan of attack and some boundaries guarding some down time are likely going to help you.

One key here is that even without a change to how much you have to do, having a plan of attack will psychologically bring you some relief. Forcing yourself to have some time off to relax can be hard to do but essential for your body to recharge.

Sometimes the stress our body is feeling is because we have something in a relationship that is bothering us. We might be fully aware of what it is or we might have minimized it at a conscious level and not even realize that we did so.

I had this happen lately. (All my own juicy life experiences is how I get my material after all!) Something happened in my family that was yucky. It involved me but was actually more impactful to other members of my family. As a result I didn’t take the time or the initiative needed for me to process it for myself. I didn’t realize until the topic came up that I had not talked this through enough. I’d been feeling flat. I was more negative than my normal cheerful self. Things irritated me easily.

Obviously the best practice is to pay attention in the moment to how we feel when things come up. None of us do that perfectly though. So often we think “well that’s not a big deal” only to realize later that it was truly a bigger deal to us than we originally thought.

Second best is paying attention to these symptoms and when you see them, taking time to do an inventory. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. In the past couple of weeks, what situations or conversations have I found a little annoying?
  2. What actions do I need to take with my “to do” list to feel like it’s under control?
  3. If time constraints are part of the stress, what can I let go of or do differently to save some time? (E.g. a phone meeting instead of face-to-face to save travel time)
  4. Who do I need to talk with and what do I want to communicate?
  5. What can I do in the next few days to re-charge my battery?

The big stresses we are sometimes more effective at creating strategy for. It’s this little, sneaky stuff that can really impact how happy we are and we don’t even see it coming.

What would you like to feel like tomorrow? What do you need to do today to make that more likely?

Until next time,


Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is an Executive and Leadership Coach with Capacity Building Coaching, holding her Professional Certified Coach designation with the International Coach Federation.

Marilyn provides professional coaching for executive and business leaders, mentor coaching for coaches, and leadership development support in the form of coaching skills training and soft-skills development.

Marilyn is author of everyday resiliency workbook “How Absorbent Are Your Shocks?”, available on Amazon. Subscribe to “Marilyn’s Musings” twice monthly blogposts for more leadership and professional development content.

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