The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Do You Have Any “Tells” That Show That You’re Feeling Stressed?

I need about three extra hours of sleep each night.

I really work on paying attention to the clues my self is giving myself.

For instance, I think of myself in the third person. That allows me to manage myself better.

I also follow the resolution to Pay attention to my “tells.” (A “tell,” in poker, is an action or expression that serves as a clue to whether a person has a good hand or bad hand; without meaning to, you “tell” what you’ve got). A few years ago, I finally noticed that I have two very obvious “tells” that indicate that I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

First, I need about three extra hours of sleep each night.

Second, I hanker to re-read some of my favorite works of children’s literature. Notice, I say “re-read,” because when I’m in this mood, I don’t want to read anything new. I want to re-read something I already love. That way, I get the pleasure of reading without the special effort and suspense of reading a book for the first time. I can really savor the details.  (Along the same lines, a recent study made the interesting case that watching re-runs of a favorite TV show can boost your will-power.)

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Well, today I feel perfectly normal, but I suspect I’m feeling overwhelmed–did I mention that my new book, Happier at Home, came out a few days ago?–because I went to sleep at 8:15 pm last night, and I’ve been standing in front of my Shrine to Children’s Literature, to try to decide what to re-read this weekend.

I’ve worn out so many books (His Dark Materials, Narnia, Little Women books, Anne of Green Gables, etc., etc.) that they need to lie fallow for several years, before I can re-read them again. So…what will it be? Something excellent, and epic, and I do believe I’m in the mood for fantasy. Although some people argue that The Lord of the Rings isn’t properly considered children’s literature, I do put it in that category, and I think that’s what I’ll read.

Children’s literature is one of my joys, and it’s also my mental comfort food.

I used to ignore or fight my tells, now I pay very close attention to them, which allows me to handle stress much better.

How about you? Do you have any “tells” that show that you’re under stress–even when you might not have consciously realized it? Do you have any comfort food activities that help you deal with it?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

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Want to win a free copy of Happier at Home? I’m giving away one book each day until publication.

Enter your name and email in the sign-up form here, and every day, a name will be picked at random. U.S.Canada, and U.K. only–sorry about that restriction on the give-away.

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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