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What you do when you are tired or stressed is often the opposite of what you need

Do you know what you do when you are tired or stressed? What is your automatic behaviour? Do you know what the tell-tale signs are in your behaviour? What behaviours serve as a red flag? Often these behaviours are automatic and we are not consciously aware of them. When you are tired or stressed do you:
» go to bed later than normal?
» skip going to the gym?
» eat lunch behind your computer?
» spend more time binge watching Netflix (and then staying up to too late because of that, while the reason you crashed on the couch in front of the telly was that you were too tired to do anything else)
» reach for snacks or sugar more?
» reach for your phone more and swipe through social media?
» drink more coffee or soda?

Subtle clues
For me a subtle clue that I’m feeling stressed is that I postpone going to the toilet. I’m working on something and then feel that I need to go to the toilet. Then I think- let me finish this first, often automatically, in a split second. And then I end up going to the toilet much later- all the while unconsciously tightening my muscles / building up tension in my body because I really needed to go to the toilet. When I notice this pattern I know I’m actually feeling stressed and that I’m aggravating it by building up extra tension in my body by postponing a toilet break. I know what I need is actually more than a short toilet break. I know I need to take a longer break and take conscious action to release the stress I’m feeling.

Often times what you need to replenish your energy or release stress is the opposite of what you automatically resort to. Skipping breaks is a signal that what you need most right now is taking a break!

“Becoming aware of your automatic behaviour can help you to course correct sooner and take good care of yourself.“

Taking good care of yourself?
When you are really tired and mindlessly watch TV or swipe through social media it can of course help you to distract you from the feeling of stress or tiredness. But does it replenish your energy or help you actually release some of that stress? Do you feel more energized after having watched TV or after swiping through social media? Pay attention to how you feel afterwards. My guess is that most of the time you do not feel more energized or less stressed. Sometimes you might even feel worse afterwards. Oftentimes what you need is the opposite of what you do automatically. Instead of reaching for your telephone or the remote control, putting the phone away or turning off the telly and going to bed early, will help you to refill your energy. Or taking a warm bath or hot shower. Doing something active or creative. Taking more breaks instead of less, to release some of the stress that has been building up. These things will do more than just distracting you from how you feel. They will help you to take good care of yourself, to renew your energy and to release stress.

And don’t get me wrong- sometimes crashing in front of the telly is just what you need. But if you feel tired and stressed more often and you automatically crash in front of the telly many nights and you don’t feel better afterwards? Then it is good to become aware of this unconscious automatic behaviour. Because it is actually telling you that you are in need of conscious actions to help you regain energy or release stress. Becoming aware of your automatic behaviour can help you to course correct sooner and take good care of yourself.

Become curious
So this week become curious, do some research on your own automatic behaviours. When you feel tired or stressed:
» What do you stop doing?
» What do you do more?

Make a list of your tell-tale signs. Also become curious to see if your automatic behaviour helps you renew your energy/relieve stress. If not think of alternative course of actions. Ask yourself: what would help me to renew my energy? What would help me to relieve stress? Go and do that!

About the author
Dr. Samula Mescher is an international coach and trainer for scientists / driven professionals. Want to know more? Go to her website or find her on social media: LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.

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