If you asked me before last week, I would have said that I’m reasonably skilled at evaluating my own stress levels. It turns out that I’ve greatly overestimated my ability in this regard, and I’m actually been pretty pathetic at this type of self diagnosis. The thing that I’m good at doing is noticing when things have gotten out of control, and this is not such an impressive ability – it is about as useful as being able to spot an open horse’s gate after the animal has run away.
This new assessment of my ability to self diagnose is as a result of moving house. I expected that this event would be stressful, but in the days coming up to the move I felt surprisingly stress free. I ignored the fact that I’d been having trouble sleeping and that I was finding it hard to concentrate on work. I’ve developed such a high tolerance for these symptoms that I need to be close to a breakdown before I begin to wonder if I might be stressed.
This failure to diagnose my rising stress levels wasn’t a problem this time, but it could have been. This is a common pattern in my life. I allow my stress levels to rise until I’m unable to ignore the problem. This is not something that I’ve being doing intentionally – it is just that I’m not been very good at spotting the early symptoms of stress. This needs to change. Just acknowledging escalating stress levels is usually enough to bring things back under control, and so this new insight should make that easier. It is always the problems that I try to ignore that cause the most problems in my life.