Everyone Has Limits
Stress is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s required for growth. We weren’t designed for constant levels of high stress, though. We need rest. We need to ebb and flow. Not only does an ocean tide approach to stress allow our bodies the rest and relaxation they need, but it also allows for the mental space necessary to process and deal with life in a healthy way.
Is stress constant in your life, or do you get regular relief from its pressure?
Everyone processes stress uniquely, and every person has a different tolerance level for stress. How we handle stress and how much we can handle also varies contextually.
My husband and I provide perfect examples of this reality. I don’t handle chronic stress well and need lots of rest after a stressful event or situation. I also don’t do well with thinking quickly and making a lot of quick decisions, especially with people watching and waiting.
My husband is the opposite. He is energized being around other people and pushing through challenges. He has an amazing ability to think quickly and act efficiently. In fact, he thrives under pressure.
We are also different in our down time. I need a lot of quiet and down time. He recharges very quickly, and his down time usually involves a lot of activity. While my limits are quickly obvious, my husband seems to not have them at times. In fact, he’s earned the nickname “Energizer Bunny” because he keeps going and going and going with uncanny consistency.
It’s obvious to everyone nearby when I’ve reached my limit of stress, and I feel it internally well before it’s visible to others. I look fatigued, my digestion slows, and I get over-sensitive to sensory stimulation. My husband’s limits are not so obvious. He works hard, sleeps deeply, and shows very few visible signs of stress. When stress lasts too long, a limit well past that of most people, signs begin to show and include an increased obsession with work and falling asleep in 30 seconds instead of three minutes.
My husband struggles recognizing his limits because he, like many high achievers, doesn’t like admitting he has them. I usually recognize the signs in him before he does.
5 Areas to Consider
Regardless of whether limits come quickly or seem higher than most people’s, there are always signs indicating their existence. Learning to recognize those signs can prevent you from speeding down life’s highway at a reckless pace.
- Sleep – What’s your optimal number of hours, and are you hitting it every night? How’s the quality of your sleep? Consistency in this area brings almost instantaneous overall improvement in the ability to handle stress in a healthy way.
- Energy – Is your energy level consistent throughout the day, or do you have periods where yawning increases and eyes grow unbearably heavy? Are you constantly reaching for caffeine or sugar for a quick energy boost? An inconsistent energy level is a caution light indicating limits are getting near.
- Thoughts – Do you struggle focusing? Do you zone out when others are talking? Are your thoughts constantly wandering to impossible scenarios of relief? Perhaps all you can do is think about work or whatever is causing stress. Has your concern turned into worry? Remember that thoughts determine reality, so understanding what you’re thinking can help sense approaching limits.
- Leisure – When was the last time you took a day or even an afternoon off? Do you constantly bring work home? Even if you do take a day off, do you sneak in time for work? Maybe you’re one of the many Americans contributing to the 768 million days of unused vacation time in 2018. An avoidance of leisure is a sure indication of approaching stress limits.
- Relationships – Do you spend regular time with your spouse and kids/grandkids? What about dinner with your family regularly? Do you have any friends you hang out with outside of work? Strained or shallow relationships indicated stress limits are rapidly approaching or have been reached.
Taking time to assess these areas of life can make a tremendous difference in preventing the crash and burn that comes when limits are reached, exceeded, and ignored. Don’t let a heart attack or adrenal burnout or other physical ailments force you to recognize and respect your limits. Choose to do so on your own terms before your body forces you to on its terms.