Be on the lookout for these stress warning signs

The following “warning signs” can help clarify what thoughts and emotions are influencing your thinking or feeling. These “warnings” can lead to dangerous problems if not dealt with, appropriately.

The first letters of these “Warning Signs” are: “HALTS-FOSSES.” Each letter stands for a serious response someone may be having to his or her circumstances.

Beware of the “HALTS-FOSSES!” These “Warning Signs” are our enemies!  These signs can trigger serious mental/emotional upsets, depression, relapse and other emotional struggles.”

If you are experiencing these, you are probably “skating on thin ice.”  If so, it’s important to take immediate steps to avoid or to cope with what is causing these inner HALTS-FOSSES responses.

Suggestion: Underline the specific descriptions of the “HALTS-FOSSES” below that can act as triggers and make you much more vulnerable to a serious bout of mental/emotional upset, depression, mania, addiction relapse or some other serious reaction.

H — Hungry

– Hungry for, the increasing practice of an addiction to a substance (food, alcohol, illegal or legal drugs), or craving a compulsive behavior such as irresponsible spending, gambling, sexual promiscuity, pornography, or overeating.

A — Anger

Anger that comes in the form of resentment, hate, bitterness at: yourself, other people, circumstances, your workload, interruptions, disappointments with yourself or others, health problems, financial difficulties, insurance conflicts, excessive paperwork, or playing corporate “telephone-tag hell.”

L — Loneliness

Having Lonely thoughts/feelings of being neglected, avoided or unappreciated by your spouse, children, co-workers or supervisors, church people, neighbors, friends or others.  Feeling/thinking “No one really understands or cares about me. No one really listens or even wants to listen because they all have their own agendas, motives and self-interests at heart, not mine.”

T — Tired

Being Tired, fatigued, exhausted and drained from working too many hours at too fast a pace. This tiredness can come from too much empty time or a lack of a purpose. Or, perhaps your tiredness results from not taking enough breaks for yourself for hobbies, exercise and entertainment. Maybe you are depleted from too many administrative details – emails, letters, bills, writing/typing, tedious research or unending paperwork. Exhausted from late night socializing/partying, or talking too long with people by phone, or at social gatherings.

S — Self-pity

Soaking in Self Pity, marinating in “Poor-me’s” such as, “I don’t deserve this raw deal, this illness.  I keep trying, but things will never get better. I continually fail. No one understands me. I’ll never beat my negative circumstances, this addiction, this bout of depression. I’ll never make the impact on the world that I’ve always wanted to. I’m washed up, useless.”

F — Fears

Fearing that your job stresses, financial status, depression, or addiction will never improve.  You battle anxieties over health problems, criticisms, rejections, abandonment’s, decreasing strength to fight depression or addiction. You are troubled that your medications or counseling are not working, or that your weight problems won’t go away.

O — Overwhelmed

Feeling Overwhelmed by a hectic schedule with little or no time for rest and refreshment. You are tortured by deadlines, job responsibilities, social commitments, unfinished “To-Do” lists.  You are swamped by insurance, tax or other forms. You endure constant phone interruptions from telemarketers, friends and others.

S — Sleep

Sleep quality suffers. You sleep too little, too much, too fitfully, or it is too hard to get to sleep.

S — Swearing

Swearing increasingly erupts. Previously you could fairly well control your outbreaks of “gutter gums.” But now, just about anything can set your swearing off.

E — Expectations

Unmet or shattered Expectations of Yourself: to lose weight, to achieve a goal, or to control your meltdowns, or your Expectations of Others: that they will keep their promises, spend time with you, ask questions about your interests, and other expectations.

S — Stresses

Stress of any kind upsets you. This “catch-all” category includes any situation, person or place that gives you an inner “owie” and makes you think negatively or feel tense, nervous, angry, or fearful.

The ancient literature of Proverbs 27: 12 says, A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Successful stress-busting means making ongoing inventories of your physical, mental, and emotional reactions to people, places and situations.

With practice, these “on the spot” observations will become a healthy habit. Once you are, of your physical or emotional signs of stress, or of experiencing a HALTS-FOSSES warning sign you can choose either to:

1) Deny that right now you are in a precarious situation and may be facing serious costs to yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally, Or

2) Admit to yourself that you are very vulnerable to more serious physical, mental or emotional harm, like a rubber band that’s been stretched too far and will snap at any moment.

The big danger with stress is that you never quite know when that last little straw on the donkey’s back will be the one to finally flatten the poor donkey.

If you can acknowledge that stresses are “getting to you,” then it’s time to take the Second Step to free yourself from their potentially destructive problems on you as well as the collateral damages to your loved ones.

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Hi, I'm Jim. I've been through the emotional wringer. I've been a successful pastor and leader and a loving father, but I've also been suicidally depressed. I'll teach you the techniques I used to heal myself, and give you the tools to reclaim your life and move forward!

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