Stress Indicators

Maybe it’s the reading of posts like this one or this one that have me pondering my own busyness and stress level. If you’re like me, there are all sorts of stress indicators–they’re the red flags that pop up when I know my life is too busy and I need some genuine rest.

Physical symptoms. Seemingly spontaneous headaches or stomachaches appear. I’ll become aware of a hunched posture, that I’ll be slouching in meetings or while driving my car. Whether we cognitively acknowledge our stress or not, our bodies feel it and must deal with it.

Sleep. This is related to the physical symptoms, but my sleep patterns can reveal a lot about where I’m at. When I’m experiencing insomnia at night while feeling exhausted during the day, there’s something deeper going on beneath the surface.

Clutter. I know that when there are empty Starbucks cups or plastic water bottles sitting in the cup holders in my car that I’m becoming overworked. The clutter level on my desk typically indicates my own level of stress (and taking the 10 minutes to de-clutter my desk can do wonders for making me feel relaxed).

Misplacing the little things. I’ll lose stuff or forget items. I lost my church keys a two weeks ago and have managed to leave for the office without the replacements a few times since. I’ve walked out to my car without the lunch I just packed or will lose my cell phone somewhere in my house. (A few weeks ago, I drove to my office carrying both my cell and my wife’s, having picked up the latter thinking it was mine, despite having picked up my own only minutes before).

Loss of discipline. I’m a fairly discipline reader and writer, waking up early to study Scripture and read one of the many books I’m digesting. Lately, there has been an increasingly large stack of unfinished books piling up on my shelves. The writing is few and far between. And when I actually sit down to read or write, I find myself mentally distracted or falling asleep.

What are your stress indicators? What do you do to cope with stress and find rest in your life?

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Joel Mayward is a pastor, writer, youth worker, and film critic. The author of three books, he has written for numerous ministry publications, including Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, Leadership Journal, YouthWorker Journal, Immerse Journal, The Youth Cartel, and LeaderTreks. You can read his musings on film, theology, and culture at his personal blog, For his film reviews and essays, check out Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelmayward.