Each language has its own set of concepts and metaphors. Knowing them, we are able to describe phenomena that have so far remained unnamed for us, often – unconscious.

For example, in English there is the term “canary in a coal mine.” Behind it is the fascinating story of a canary that has become a national hero of Great Britain. Between 1911 and 1986, British miners took canaries with them into mine shafts. John Scott Haldane, known as the father of oxygen therapy, suggested using these birds to detect carbon dioxide. The bird stopped singing when the oxygen level in the mine shaft began to decrease. “Canaries, like other birds, are good early detectors of carbon monoxide because they are sensitive to the poisonous substance in the air.” * (Inglis-Arkell).

 

The help that the inconspicuous animal provided to the mining industry can be compared to the role of our nervous system. It warns us of impending danger. However, are we aware of and recognize the activities of our canary?

We are largely unaware of our own, specific stress symptoms. We search Google, looking externally for answers, instead of listening to our inner voice and tuning in to the information coming from our nervous system.

When I asked Chat GPT what are the main symptoms of stress, I got quite detailed information:

Physical symptoms: Headaches, Muscle tension or pain, Fatigue, Sleep disturbances, Digestive problems (such as stomach problems or nausea), Changes in appetite (excessive food consumption or loss of appetite).

Emotional symptoms:

Irritability or capriciousness of mood, Anxiety or restlessness, Feeling overwhelmed, Lack of motivation or focus, Sadness or depression. A sense of isolation or loneliness.

Cognitive symptoms:

Chasing thoughts, Forgetfulness or memory problems, Difficulty focusing attention, Poor judgment, Negative thinking or constant worrying.

Behavioral symptoms: Changes in eating habits, Increased consumption of substances (alcohol, tobacco or drugs) Procrastination or neglect of responsibilities Social withdrawal or avoidance of social activities Nervous habits (e.g., nail biting, walking back and forth)

Interpersonal symptoms: Difficulty communicating or expressing thoughts, Increased conflicts or arguments with others, Social withdrawal or avoidance of social activities.

You may be wondering: “Does that mean I have to experience all these feelings to be able to say I’m stressed?” Probably not, each of us has individual symptoms and intensity of stress, which can vary depending on our moment in life, personality, age.

Over the past 20 years, Google has become the “primary care physician” for many of us. We search for news about stress because we live in a time of constant tension and overstimulation, as Google search trends also show – over the course of two decades, we increasingly ask Uncle Google about stress.

In the meantime, the most important source of information about what kind and how much stress we feel is ourselves – our inner “canary” voice.

Studies show that asking yourself three times ” what emotion am I feeling right now” significantly reduces stress. *

 

The problem is that in the midst of a multitude of tasks, a multitude of information to process, we often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves and focusing on our own inner self. Asking ourselves – “what emotions am I feeling right now” (not: “how am I feeling”, because to this question most of us will answer “… e well”, or “tragically”) can significantly affect our self-discovery and, as a result, improve our well-being. This is because our inner voice will tell us what we need.

Let’s make a habit of listening to your canary. Could the miners in the British shaft have afforded to stop listening to the bird sing? If this were to happen, a miserable fate would await them. The same fate awaits us if we don’t start paying more attention to listening to the tune sung specifically for us by our nervous system.