How to Handle Stress by Listening to Your Body


Work. Cleaning. Kids. Cooking. Finances. It’s already so easy to become stressed—but add the holidays to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for extreme stress.

So how do we keep our stress from spiraling out of control, especially during the busiest part of the year? Take one important step: Listen to your body.

What Does Listening to My Body Mean?

Our bodies are constantly talking to us—telling us we’re hungry, thirsty, tired, sore, and so on. But it’s fairly easy to listen to those cues. Truly listening to your body means actively trying to understand some of the less obvious things our bodies are saying.

How Do I Listen to My Body?

There are a number of things to look out for that speak volumes about your stress level—things you may easily attribute to other factors or health conditions.

  • Frequent headaches
  • Skin problems such as acne or eczema
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Being sick frequently
  • Body tension or aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Memory difficulties
  • Decreased sexual desire or fertility problems
  • Increased sweating

You can also take a deeper dive by taking a quiet moment to check in with yourself. 

  1. Stop and breathe. Try to slow things down by closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. This will connect you more with your body and help bring you into the moment.
  2. Focus on each body part. Starting with your toes and working up, really think about how each part of your body is feeling. Are your legs sore? Shoulders tense? Head hurting? Discovering each sensation will help you address the underlying causes.
  3. Reflect. Ask yourself what’s currently on your mind—is something making you feel anxious or burdened? Did something specific happen to make your body tense up? Welcome each thought and let it help you understand what’s going on and what your body needs next.

How Do I Give My Body What It Needs?

Once you’ve identified what you’re experiencing, you can start to address what’s causing you to feel a certain way. Here are some common feelings and suggestions on next steps.

  • Anxious. Try some relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, or meditation to give yourself some quick relief. Then, go after what’s causing you to feel anxious—it might be time to delegate and take a few things off your plate.
  • Sore. Did you recently work out? Ask yourself if you should do another light workout or just let yourself recover.
  • Tired. If you can’t squeeze in a nap, make sure to carve out some time to relax and get some extra (quality) sleep at night.
  • Stiff. Have you been sitting in the same position for too long? Is your posture less than perfect? Try shifting to a better way of sitting or standing and do some stretches to loosen up. Try taking some helpful breaks during the workday.
  • Hungry. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to eat when you feel hungry. But making smart choices about food is also critical. Try reaching for a healthy snack or meal.
  • Thirsty. The same healthy rule goes for quenching your thirst—water is always the best choice to ensure you’re properly hydrated.

While these tips can help you on your way to de-stressing, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. The more you listen to your body, the better you’ll get to know your signs of stress and how to relieve what’s causing it.

For more helpful advice, you can explore nine healthy ways to reduce stress.