Recognizing Stress

Recognizing and Staying On Top of Stress As a Language Learner

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”

Ralph Marston

Reading time: 2 minutes

How do you know that you’re stressed?

Sometimes, it’s easy: you feel anxious and overwhelmed. Other times, it’s less simple to recognize. Stress can take a lot of forms:

  • Anxiety, nervousness, or worry
  • Avoiding tasks
  • Decrease in performance
  • Negative emotions: anger, confusion, depression, hopelessness, sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed, freezing
  • Poor concentration/memory

One good way to know when you are experiencing stress is by paying attention to your body. Stress can affect many of your body’s internal systems such as your hormones, blood pressure, and immune system, but here are some signs that are easy to observe on your own.

Unstressed Mind and BodyStressed Mind and Body
BreathingSmooth, calm, slowShallow and quick
EmotionsManageable, calm moodsFear, anger, panic, nervousness
Heart RateSteady circulation, oxygen  Speeds up to pump more blood  
MindFocused, clear thinking, memory functions wellInstinctive, higher thinking shuts down 
MusclesContract as needed, then relax  Tense, ready for action
StomachDigesting normallyDigestion shuts down, butterflies
Sweat GlandsFunction as needed to cool offMore active to cool the tense body

When you’re aware of stress in your body, you can: 

  • Learn to calm down quickly and easily
  • Improve mental clarity, concentration, and memory for peak performance
  • Develop the ability to release tension and stress

One way to become aware of and release tension in your body is through something called body scanning:

Try it out!

1) 5-minute body scan for tension

Try a body scan to identify and release tension in your body. You can find a guided option at, or you can simply follow the directions below. 

  1. Find a place where you can relax, preferably lying down. 
  2. Starting at your toes, flex and relax each part of your body for 5 seconds. Notice where you are carrying tension. Work all the way up to your jaw, eyes, and forehead.
  3. See how much more relaxed you are! Now you also know where in your body you tend to carry tension and stress. Pay attention to these areas when you are feeling anxious.

2) 60-second breathing reset

  1. Try this breathing app which can help you briefly detach from your stressors when you need to regroup or refocus. It will guide you through a short breathing session and quickly help you learn to regulate your breathing on your own.