Stress' Effects on the Body
The Mind / Body Connection
Have you ever been sick with the flu or a cold and felt sad, too? What about when you received some good news and also noticed you had a lot of energy? Fight or flight is just one example of the many ways the thinking part of us and the "doing" part of us connect.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
How Does Stress Affect Your Body?
Now let's see how stress affects you. Make sure you read this warning before you begin.
1. Read all instructions first before you start.
2. Start timer and click on the "Mind Body Connection Worksheet."
3. Think about something stressful for 2 minutes. Try not to do anything but let yourself "stress out" a bit. Let the timer notify you when to stop.
4. After 2 minutes, do a body scan and determine where you are feeling something - it can be anything.
5. Click on the colored/patterned squares on the Mind Body Connection Worksheet that correspond with where you feel something.
What's a body scan? Simply put, it's paying attention to the sensations in your body on the smallest scale you can. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, make yourself comfortable, and focus on your body one part at a time. Start with your head. Notice any sensations - headache? tension? heaviness? dizziness? Anything at all. Then move to the next smallest "division" of your body, your neck. Notice any tension, etc.? Then just slowly work your way down your entire body.
One more time...
Now that you've tried this exercise, print out a "clean" copy of the Mind Body Connection Worksheet and try the exercise again in a few days. Try focusing on something that makes you angry this time. Then try something that makes you afraid. The more you "practice" this exercise, the better your awareness will be of how your body responds to stress and other emotions. This will help you be more successful in identifying your emotional states, and with the other exercises on Stress Recess.
FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
How will knowing how stress affects the body help me with my stress?
For some people, knowing that the "butterflies" in their stomach or the muscle tension in their neck is part of the body's normal response to stress can help them feel empowered to make changes. Understanding how our thoughts directly impact how we're feeling physically is the first step toward making significant changes.
I'm trying the body scan exercise but I'm not feeling anything What's wrong?
It might take several tries before your awareness of your body is to the point where you notice sensations. Sometimes when people have been anxious for a long time, they learn to cope by ignoring or denying what their body is telling them. This exercise is the opposite of that coping strategy.
Why should I try the worksheet for the other emotions, anger and fear?
Stress or anxiety, anger, and fear are all connected to the Fight or Flight response, but there are subtle differences. If you've ever almost had a car collision, you've probably experience all three at once. Learning to identify sensations in your body and the emotions that correspond to them will give you greater insight into how you are really feeling, which can be very useful if, for example, you are trying to make a decision.
Warning: Please take care to use a worry or a stressful thought that is mild or moderate in intensity, such as a worry about an upcoming test or project deadline. If you have a history of surviving a traumatic experience, it is very important that if you choose to do this exercise you pick a stressor that is very low in intensity. If you become upset, or if you just need to talk to someone please reach out. Telephone Counseling is always available.
Remember to Think Small
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