It’s easier to identify stress than to identify its root causes.
Anxiousness, irritation, insomnia, exhaustion, digestive problems, crying spells, bursts of anger – these are all telltale signs of a body under stress.
But what are the causes of this stress?
Is it the heavy workload? The class that never seems overly unruly? The rude, demanding parents? The paperwork? The demands of our home life?
Those things ARE stressful and contribute to our full plates – but are they the actual cause? Outside of those stressful events…how do we feel about our life?
Human beings need more that a lack of stressful stimuli and events to feel whole and healthy.
Humans have core needs – and when they go unmet and unfulfilled – we feel lack. When we are in lack, we go into survival mode of flight fight or fear. Those are the 3 stress responses that can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. Some of these core needs are not obvious – so when they are hidden it’s more difficult for us to meet them.
What are these mysterious core needs?
People have 9 core needs that people have to feel whole and healthy. They are:
- The need to give and receive attention. This is usually met through our relationships with others.
- The need to look after the mind and body physical needs. We can meet this through rest, sleep, good nutrition, exercise.
- The need for a sense of safety and security. These are met in healthy relationships and stable life situations.
- The need for a sense of community and making a contribution. Teaching is definitely one way this need is met, but if our work feels meaningless then we’ll feel lack in this area.
- The need for challenge and creativity. We meet this though learning new things or taking on projects where we can make progress and have fun.
- The need for intimacy. This need is met though close friendships and relationships where we feel heard, seen and valued.
- The need for a sense of control. We can meet this need in being organized, following through on decisions, and having good boundaries.
- The need for a sense of status or significance. This is met by having a positive basis for our self-esteem and self-worth.
- The need for a sense of meaning and purpose. This need is fulfilled when we have plans for the future or a strong set of values that guide our choices.
We seek out to fulfil these needs in both positive and negative ways (though the negative ways are largely either unconscious). The teacher in us also seeks to have those 9 needs fulfilled. All the meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating and positive affirmations in the world won’t make a dent in our stress levels if we don’t address if our core needs are going unfulfilled.
It’s not that we need to create a to-do list of ways to fulfil these 9 core needs! But it can be helpful to look through the list and see where we feel we are feeling a sense of lack. Take one area and do something to bring some light and fulfilment to it. It can be done in small ways. That way it’s not overwhelming a task to take on. Sometimes the care we give ourselves to renew just one of those core needs is enough. It takes the edge off stress. When we are fulfilled, happier – we manage stressors better.
Sometimes self-care can feel good without making much of a difference in our overall stress reduction and stress-handling capacity. Self-care centered around taking care of fulfilling some of our unmet core needs is a great strategy. Rather than brushing over them, it heals some of the root causes of stress.