We all handle things differently but what happens when we ignore the signs of something that’s hurting us, like stress?
There are two types of stress: one good, one bad.
Distress is the bad stuff; eustress is the good.
For now, I’m going to focus on the bad stress because it has turned into a silent killer. It’s effecting our lives in ways we tend to ignore and breaking down our bodies in the process. Too much (or ignored) stress can lead to permanent physical problems.
I’m not talking about the occasional tension headache. I’m talking about lasting damage to your heart, brain, and digestive system. Diabetics, for example, can see it wreak havoc on sugar levels. It can cause insulin not to work like it should and lead to a rabbit trail of problems in that area alone.
I want to talk about stress for adults for a moment but then we’re going to talk about the kiddos.
STRESS SYMPTOMS IN ADULTS
Life is hard. In the Bible, Jesus told believers directly we would have trials. There’s no easy button and we’re always going to face challenges that push us closer to our breaking point than what we would like.
No one is immune to having problems in life.
But how do we know when it’s too much?
We get so use to ignoring what our bodies tell us that we also ignore the damage we’re doing to ourselves. Gut problems, headaches, fatigue…all warning signs. Our bodies are trying to send messages, but we aren’t listening. We don’t listen until the heart attack or stroke happens. Often, that ends up being too late.
So how do we know what to look for before the damage occurs?
You don’t. How’s that for encouragement?
Stress effects many of us but in a huge number of different ways. It would be impossible to give a definitive list that matches every person. Headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, irritability are all common but just because a person is missing one item on the list doesn’t mean they have a free pass.
Instead of looking for symptoms, the easiest thing to do is listen to your body.
Having a lot of unexplained tummy trouble? There’s a reason. It may not be stress. It may be something totally different, like an underlying physiological issue. Either way, it’s not good to ignore it.
Can’t get rid of that headache? It’s more than just “allergies.”
So many of the physical problems adults have get blamed on absurd excuses. Yes, getting older brings snaps and crackles we didn’t always have. But, “getting older” doesn’t discount everything. We must be in tune with our body to find a balance with it and keep it healthy.
So, the best thing, when you have physical symptoms that might be related to stress?
Your doctor’s phone number.
STRESS IN KIDS
Unfortunately, our little people don’t have the benefit of understanding how to listen to their bodies. Even our teens can easily miss warning signs. Yet, they have very real stress issues. Often, they can thank us adults for that.
School, money, family problems, health issues, relationships, moves, and all the other ADULT problems we lay on our kids cause stress. They aren’t capable of processing it all yet and it quickly manifests into physical problems. Sometimes the physical problem is the only way they know to convey something is wrong at all.
“My tummy hurts.”
“I don’t feel good.”
“My head hurts.”
“My neck is sore.”
Can all mean there’s a problem. Of course, ruling out illness is the first step. Then, it’s time to start asking the harder questions.
OPEN ENDEDED QUESTIONS FOR KIDS
Before the first question, it’s important to remember not to lead the kiddo.
Asking “Is someone bothering you?” Can lead to a child to think that’s the answer you want when it may not be what’s going on.
Instead, you can ask, “Can you think of a reason your tummy might hurt?”
The answer may be the bag of Oreos hidden under the bed or it might end up being “my tummy hurts when the kid at school teases me.”
Then you have a starting point. You can deal with the Oreos later.
The point is, we can’t ignore the seriousness of stress on our kids. They’re listening to us complain about everything. Especially now that many parents are home with the kids 24/7.
Do you think they don’t hear you gripe about wanting them back in school, being ready to go back to work, ready to go back to normal?
Want to take a guess at what a kid can hear in all of that?
“I don’t want to be with my kid.”
Back to normal means mom and dad are working, or doing other things, they won’t have as much time with me. They don’t want to be around me. I’m a problem. I’m in the way…I could write an entire article on the stupid things parents say not realizing how their kids interpret their words.
We’re stressing out our kids.
Identifying a child’s distress may not be easy but here are a few questions to get you started.
What do you think is happening (to make your tummy hurt, head hurt, etc)?
Can you think of (something that might make it feel better)?
Tell me why (you think you don’t feel well).
Once you get the idea it may be emotionally related, press on.
What are some things that make you sad?
What are things that make you happy?
Then, really get them talking: Tell me about a time when someone was really nice to you today.
Those conversation starters can help identify problems as well as build relationships.
BEST PART/WORST PART
When my daughter was little, I quickly realized asking “how was your day?” Got me nowhere.
I came up with a game called Best part/Worst part.
Every day I asked, “What was the WORST part of your day?” Then, “What was the BEST part of the day?”
The rules were simple:
- We both HAD to answer.
- It couldn’t be a cop-out answer like ‘lunch’ or ‘coming home.’
- I ALWAYS started with worst so our conversations ended on the high note of talking about the BEST of the day.
It revolutionized our afternoons. I learned more about her, what was important to her, and the things she paid attention to. Meanwhile, she learned more about what I did during the day and often we could relate to one another through the things that made us happy or sad.
Adults need to recognize symptoms of stress in themselves by listening to their bodies.
Adults need to recognize symptoms of stress in kids by listening to their children.
Ultimately, our health depends on how much we pay attention to both.