Stress is an unavoidable part of life. The first step to controlling stress is to know the symptoms of stress. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed, that we often don't know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point. Some of the signs of stress to look out for are:
#1 Insomnia or disrupted sleep
Stress can cause major disruptions to your sleep patterns. It often results in difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. If your nervous system isn't able to quiet down, and the body and mind can't return to a resting state, you'll likely have trouble falling and staying asleep. On top of that, daytime stress may also trigger odd or anxious dreams.
Chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, which are released during times of stress, can cause vascular changes that result in a tension headache or migraine. These headaches are characterized by a feeling of pressure surrounding the head, and they may last anywhere from less than an hour to several days. While many people may experience an occasional tension headache, prolonged stress can result in chronic tension headaches, which are defined as those occurring for more than 15 days in any given month. Stress headaches can drastically interfere with your quality of life and productivity.
#3 Muscle tension
Stress can cause your muscles to tense up, leading to pain and discomfort. This is especially common in the neck, shoulders, and lower back.
#4 Digestive problems
The belly may be one of the first places to experience the symptoms of stress or anxiety. The signs can be diarrhea and constipation. That's because digestion is often disrupted and slowed down when your nervous system is trying to cope with stress. If the stress is severe enough, you may even vomit, too.
If you're not sleeping well, you're probably walking around all day exhausted. Plus, when your body feels overwhelmed and is working overtime to handle the stressors it registers, it takes a lot out of you. When you're tired, you get more irritable and it's harder to cope mentally with stress, creating a vicious cycle.
#6 Sweaty palms
Stress can cause sweating, even when you’re not hot or exercising. As the body reacts to anxiety or stress, it releases sweat from the apocrine glands located in the armpit, groin, and scalp (versus the eccrine glands that produce heat sweat). This stress sweat is made up of fatty acids and proteins.
Luckily, this type of sweat is usually odorless, though it can still be uncomfortable.
#7 Overeating comfort foods
Frequent cravings to consume certain types of food are symptoms of stress building up. Cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, has been linked to cravings for sugar and fat. Research suggests, too, that stress hormones can affect appetite.
#8 Catching Every Bug That Goes Around
According to a report by the American Psychological Association, long-term stress weakens the responses of your immune system. It can cause a decrease in the number and activity of certain immune cells, leaving the body more vulnerable to infection and disease. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can also suppress the immune system. This can lead to a decreased ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to increased inflammation, which is associated with a weakened immune system. Lastly, high levels of stress can cause a decrease in the production of antibodies, further decreasing the body’s ability to fight infection.
#9 Rapid heart rate
When we're stressed, our bodies release cortisol plus other stress hormones—adrenaline and noradrenaline—to get us ready to fight. This causes a short-term increase in heart rate and blood pressure and even chest pain. Too much of cortisol may make heart and lung conditions worse, including heart disease, heart rhythm abnormalities, high blood pressure, stroke, and asthma.
#10 Difficulty concentrating
Stress can make it difficult to concentrate on simple tasks. It can also lead to forgetfulness and confusion. Researchers believe stress impacts learning and memory due to exams, evaluations, and deadlines.
Timetabling positive relaxation into a busy schedule can be a first step to helping yourself manage stress – making time for exercise, family leisure, a relaxing bath, or a regular book club with friends all improve mental health and can alleviate symptoms. With busy lives, we need to actively look for ways to relax and it is surprisingly effective. Mindfulness is very useful and more and more scientific evidence is appearing that illustrates how effective it is at combatting psychological issues.
Feeling low because of stress isn’t a personal failure. It happens to most of us, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Use cutting-edge, expert-vetted mental health tools like the Manahverse to talk to a counselor, access an infinite library of resources, journal, practice mindfulness, meditate and relieve stress with the guidance of a qualified psychologist.