Daily Living

Keeping it Personal: How I Manage Stress

How to recognise and interpret the stress signals in your behaviour & body, with 4 simple steps to follow when you notice them.

Natalie Howard Natalie Howard
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I could write a thousand words educating you about stress. But you can find thousands of articles on that. Instead, I’m sharing a personal anecdote as an illustration of how I apply my ph360 profile in my daily life, with simple steps for you to follow yourself, regardless of you HealthType. (If you want to skip the story and cut to the chase, scroll down to the steps.) Because hey, I’m human, and I get stressed. Being able to teach people about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to me too. And being able to just say how normal it is to experience stress, even for those of us who model and educate about personalised health, hopefully makes you feel more normal too.

The screenshot (above) is from my Mind section of my ph360 Shae app. It’s interesting that at one level, (in fact most levels) I am extremely measured and reserved, I “tend to have controlled emotions.” As a Sensor, it’s very normal & healthy for me to be that way.

So for me, a stress indicator is when I become less measured in my behaviour. It’s so out of character, it’s actually a stress signal. What someone else might think is me “finally loosening up” or “acting normal” – like being emotional expressive or impulsive – is often not a good sign.

That really doesn’t happen often. But, I still need to express the build up of emotional energy that comes from life, especially when the load increases. I can’t be measured and reserved all the time, otherwise it creates a block. Interestingly, because my emotional expression is generally so contained, the energy needs to find a way around that to “get out.” Because I don’t just “say how I feel” or “let it all out” in ways that other HealthTypes do, my body is the one that finally “says how I feel.”

It often turns up (expresses) as skin inflammation. Being an Ectomorph, I have the most sensitive skin, so it’s easily triggered by changes in my internal and external environments. The skin is also an indicator of gut health – when the gut biome is out of balance, it shows up in the skin. It’s a delicate balance for a Sensor, so it’s generally a rapid response signal for me.

But, before the symptom, always, is the shift in my behaviour. It is my body being the first one to “say how I feel.” My behaviour shifted recently to compensate for an increase in my stress load. Yes, I do it too…I go for the dark chocolate. That’s why I called this article “How I Manage Stress” not just “How TO Manage Stress.” Because, let’s be real, I also sometimes manage my stress with less than ideal coping behaviours. So it’s useful, at times, to keep things real and personal.

While dark chocolate is recommended for me, it isn’t recommended at the daily levels I fell into when I got more stressed. Increased sugar and caffeine intake creates a gut imbalance, cognitive imbalance, sleep imbalance, increased histamine, skin inflammation, sinus congestion, heightened emotional reactivity … all of which perpetuates the stress cycle, and, the urge for that same coping mechanism. Sugar makes you crave more sugar.

So, on to the second point in my Mind profile above. It’s so simple. The mental stress is stemming from unexpressed emotional energy, which then limits the application of my intellect. Which generates more stress. It is expressing as “bad skin and congestion in the head.” However, it first expressed as behavioural changes that brought on and perpetuated those exact symptoms. Normally my behaviour around food is naturally measured; when I’m stressed, it becomes impulsive. It really is simple.

This is actually a very useful behaviour pattern that all of us do. We do exactly what is “bad” for us, which makes it even more obvious that something is wrong. It is our mind and body’s way of signalling. Where we err is in our interpretation of “what is wrong” and therefore what the best response is. We get lost in the labyrinth of blaming ourselves and / or others for being “the thing that is wrong.” We worry over possible diagnoses of “what could be wrong.” We fall down the rabbit hole of symptomatic treatments of “what seems to be wrong.” This all triggers more things to “go wrong” – because our body is saying, “hey, you’re getting it wrong.” Because really, it’s often simple.

These are my check in steps to follow when I get a signal that “something is wrong:”

1. Identify what is expressing in the mind and body. Not what “could be.” Just what is. Focusing on the body is usually more reliable because it doesn’t play tricks like the mind does. It’s honest. “Oh, my skin is inflamed … “

2. What does your profile say about that indicator when it expresses in you? “If I’m under intense stress for an extended period of time I may notice some reactions in my body. Things like …” This is important, because the same expression (a behaviour or a physical symptom) indicates different things for different HealthTypes, and for each individual. Something can be a healthy response in one person, but a stress response in someone else. Don’t just guess, and don’t just Google. What you think is “intuition” could very well be the stress talking. What you think is “proven” is possibly just “popular.” Refer to external, evidence based, personalised science. And of course, always refer to your healthcare professional for expert advice on medical matters.

3. Identify what triggered that expression. “Ok, I see emotions x,y,z at play here. I see a,b,c conditions brought them up, and d,e,f of my behaviours then amplified them.” This is a process a relevant coach or therapist can take you through, because if it hasn’t been modelled and taught to you, it doesn’t come to most people automatically. You’re understandably stuck in “I don’t know how / why this is happening.”

4. What do I do about this now? There’s so much advice out there. Do I self analyse until the cows come home? Indulge in journal writing until I’ve written a woeful ballad? Try talk it all out with someone else? Check your profile. For me: I could do an explosive workout. Not for my fitness. For my Mind. Much simpler. Much more efficient. Much more sensible. Much more me.

It’s so interesting, because explosive workouts are not what is prescribed for my fitness as a Sensor. But for managing mental & emotional stress, it is. Because let’s get real, yoga and ballet is great for my body, but it doesn’t cut it for my emotional peaks. Just because I look like a delicate ballerina doesn’t mean I always feel like one. And if I force myself to always behave like one, I’ll explode. Or my skin will explode in rashes.

That’s the most important and powerful thing about personalised health. It’s personal. It addresses you as a person. A whole person, with complex needs, wants and expressions, that may even seem like total contradictions. How can you need safety but be drawn to danger? How can people drain but also inspire you? How can you be made to be so contained yet feel utterly uncontainable at times?

Because you’re you. A whole, flowing, fruitful, abundant you. A body, and a mind, and a spirit, all in one. A Person. What seems complex and even contradictory, is, oftentimes, really very simple. It’s just personal.

Nat is a Personalised Communication, Behaviour and Relationships specialist educator and coach. To work 1:1 with Nat, book here.

To follow Nat, click here.

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