How to Self-Monitor Stress

Chase Campbell
December 29, 2023
8 minutes

Stress is a fact of life. No matter how much you try to avoid it, it just seems to pop up. It’s a natural part of today’s busy world.

While stress may be unavoidable, it’s important to keep it under control. Not doing so can lead to reduced physical and mental health. It can have serious negative long-term effects.

Part of stress management is self-monitoring. You should engage in practices that help you determine how stress is affecting you. That way you can take steps to reduce stress when it's getting to be too much. Over time, your skills for dealing with stress will improve as will your mental health.

So what are some ways to self-monitor stress? Read on to find out.

Pay Attention to Breathing Patterns

Stress causes changes in internal organs that can affect the way we breathe. It speeds up breathing and heart rate. It can even get to the point where it causes lightheadedness and hyperventilation.

Most people won’t notice the changes stress is causing until it’s too late. However, if you pay attention to how you’re breathing, you can take steps to change your patterns. Doing so will improve your stress response so you handle stress better. It is also good for general health.

There are several breathing exercises that are recommended for reducing stress. If you practice them regularly, they will come naturally when stress takes over.

Consider Your Posture and Muscle Tension

When you’re stressed, your breathing pattern changes causing tension in the middle of the back. Your shoulders hunch up leading to upper and mid-back pain. This can interfere with your posture and flexibility.

You may also be weighed down with work which means long hours at a desk. This can cause pain in the lower part of the back and tailbone. It also means you are less likely to stretch and exercise.

Fortunately, there are several exercises that relieve muscle tension and improve posture. In addition to reducing pain, exercising also increases endorphin levels so you are less stressed out.

If you find yourself sitting at a desk often, try using a standing desk, or get up every once in a while to move around. If you are tensing up due to stress, try exercises that stretch affected areas. Consult a doctor or do online research to find a workout plan that is best suited to your needs.

Try Making an Emotional Thermometer

An emotional thermometer is a tool often used for children, but it can be effective for adults as well. It is a chart with different colors. Each color represents a mood. For example:

  • Red = angry
  • Orange = frustrated
  • Green = anxious
  • Light blue= sad
  • Dark blue = happy

The colors you choose are up to you. But the point is to continue monitoring your emotions and comparing them to the chart throughout the day. This will help you identify what’s setting you off and it will remind you that you need to take time to cool down.

Know Your Triggers

Self-monitoring is important because it will help you recognize your triggers. Obviously, you will get tense when your boss yells at you or when work starts piling up. But there may be more subtle triggers that are causing stress such as the sun glaring in your eyes or certain foods you eat.

Once you start tuning into your stress and what’s causing it, you will be able to avoid triggers. This will improve stress levels overall.

Know Your Responses

It’s important to pay attention to how you are responding to stress as well. When stress comes on, do you notice an increase in breathing? Do your shoulders tense up?

Once you recognize these signs, you can take steps to change them. Doing so will reduce the physical strain of stress and improve your mood.

Make Use of Technology

If you go to a doctor to help you deal with stress, they may monitor you using a variety of medical equipment. For example, they may use electroencephalography to measure brain waves. They may do hormonal testing to determine how your cortisol and adrenalin levels are being affected. They may also look at things like blood pressure and heart rate variability.

While most people are unable to access this type of machinery, there are at-home devices, like Fitbits, that measure things like blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability. You may also consider investing in the Hanu Health app, a tool that analyzes your biometric data and offers feedback, so you can practice how to  better manage stress. 

If you are looking for a way to self-monitor stress, the Hanu Health tool is the ideal option. You can track yourself daily, and reduce stress with breathwork exercises and other actionable plans tailored just for you. Visit our website to find out more about how Hanu can play a part in your everyday life.