Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer Stress

Residual Stress is Real

We all experience stress at some point in our lives. For me, I am stressed about something almost every day. I have noticed something strange about this though. When I am worrying about something for a while, such as a project for school, as soon as the project is done, I am still stressed. My mind still churns with too many thoughts, my hands are still shaky and fidgety, and I still feel stressed. I wondered then, if the project is done, why am I still experiencing the symptoms of stress?

I have since decided on a name for this (which is in no way an actual medical term): residual stress. In terms of chemistry, residual stress is essentially the stresses present in solid materials even after the original cause of the stresses is no longer being applied. This is usually examined in metal or plastic, but I decided to examine it within myself. To continue my previous example, although the project was completed, I still felt the same symptoms I did when I was stressing about it. 

Although it was not a result of my material obtaining equilibrium, I had undergone a tense period of my life in which I was anxious, so it was completely normal for me not to feel instantly better as soon as the project was over. I still felt as though I had reason to be worried and may even be nervous until the project is graded. This can happen to anyone. When we are stressed for a prolonged period of time, that stress becomes ingrained in our minds and bodies. We are used to feeling that stress, so although the cause of the stress may have been removed, we still have some symptoms leftover that may take longer to go away. 

This is where self-care comes in. Self-care is usually practiced while we are stressed, in order to take a moment to relax, but we may not realize we are still being affected by that stress. I did not immediately understand why I still felt anxious after the causes of my stress were removed, so it did not occur to me to practice self-care. Now when I experience residual stress, I treat it similarly to normal stress. I take time for myself to address it so that I can fully stop worrying. 

Usually, I will journal about my thoughts and that is how I reached a conclusion about residual stress I was experiencing. Exercising, such as yoga or hockey practice, has helped me to get my mind off what was worrying me so that I can move on from it. Even taking a few moments just to sit down in a quiet place and take some deep breaths has helped me to slow down my mind so I understand that the stressor is no longer present. Since the mind is in control of the body, taking this time to relax it has helped to lessen the physical symptoms I experience when I am stressed, such as shaky hands. 

If you experience this residual stress like me, you are not alone! But it is important to recognize that it is happening in order to properly address it. Self-care looks different for everyone, so do what you feel is the best for your mind and body and what you know works for you. If you do not normally practice self-care, just taking a few deep breaths before going to sleep is a simple place to start. It is important that we check in with ourselves about how we are feeling, that way we can do what we need to in order to feel the best that we can.