The Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress
Surveys show that 18% of Americans suffer from anxiety. However, the actual rate of undiagnosed stress-related anxiety is estimated to be around 30%.
The human body is well-equipped to handle small doses of stressful situations, but too much for too long can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.
How can you tell if your stress has crossed the danger zone? Monitoring for shifts from your baseline stress responses can help reveal issues early before they spiral out of control.
Read on for the most common stress signs and symptoms that suggest your anxiety may be more than you can handle on your own.
Are you tossing and turning more often than not? Difficulty falling or staying asleep is one of the most common indicators of high stress levels.
When stressed, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol to help us overcome challenges. But those same hormones can also rev up our nervous system and minds, making it challenging to relax and sleep.
Constant Muscle Tension
When stressed, our muscles tense up in an automatic fight-or-flight response. Pay attention to any tightness or soreness, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Chronic muscle tension can lead to headaches, body aches, and pain. Make time to relax your body through stretching, massage, warm baths, or other activities.
Inability to Concentrate
Have you noticed yourself staring at your computer screen, reading the same paragraphs over and over? Stress hampers our ability to focus and process information. The anxious brain becomes filled with worry and distraction, making it challenging to think clearly or stay on task.
Irritability and Short Temper
Are you lashing out in anger more often? Do you lose patience over minor issues?
Irritability is a critical sign that stress hormones like cortisol are surging in your body. While occasional grumpiness is normal, take note if you frequently blow up over small things. Unmanaged stress can make it hard to control your moods and reactions.
Stress manifests in each person in different ways. But one of the most common ways is the gut. The gut is a telltale sign something is up.
You might notice more heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, or loss of appetite. These problems can occur when the fight-or-flight response reduces blood flow to your digestive system. Listen to what your stomach is telling you.
Low Energy and Motivation
Are you feeling drained no matter how much rest you get? Stress can sap our energy and prevent us from pursuing activities we typically enjoy.
It’s common to abandon hobbies, exercise, socializing, and passion projects when overwhelmed. Take note if your get-up-and-go has gotten up and left. It’s often a sign you need a reset.
Increased Illness and Aches
High stress weakens the immune system and can make you more susceptible to frequent colds, flu, infections, and viruses. You might also notice random pains like headaches, back pain, and migraines.
Listen to your body. Stress may be the culprit if you suddenly get sick or develop unfamiliar aches and pains.
Sadness and Hopelessness
Everyone feels down sometimes. However, pervasive feelings of sadness or hopelessness can be red flags for stress and anxiety. If heavy moods or thoughts of helplessness persist, it could show your stress levels have become severe and unmanageable.
Panic attacks can arise when stress hormones like adrenaline flood your body. Symptoms include a fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, trembling, and a sense of losing control or having a heart attack. If your stress level has led to panic attacks, it’s time to get help.
Changes in Eating Habits
High levels of anxiety can suppress or increase appetite among different people. Look for patterns of skipping meals, emotional eating, binging, food obsession, or significant weight loss or gain. What and how you eat offers clues to your mental state.
Teeth Grinding and Jaw Pain
You might notice yourself clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, especially at night. This tension can lead to soreness, headaches, and dental damage. Pain in the face, neck, or jaw can result from prolonged stress.
More Susceptible to Accidents
Have you become more clumsy lately, bumping into things or having minor mishaps? Stress diverts mental and physical resources that can make you more accident-prone. Increased injuries or near misses could indicate overloaded nerves and reflexes.
Rapid, Shallow Breathing
Notice yourself taking quick, shallow breaths throughout the day. Hyperventilation shows up as rapid breathing disturbs the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. Taking a deep breath can relieve stress, but hyperventilating can cause dizziness, muscle spasms, and fainting.
Withdrawing from Others
It’s common to isolate yourself when you feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You may decline invitations, cancel plans, or pull away from close friends and family. While alone time can help temporarily, prolonged social withdrawal is a warning sign your stress is leading to depression.
Do you cry at the drop of a hat lately, even over minor things that usually wouldn’t affect you? Unexplained or frequent crying spells are common with anxiety. Stress causes emotional instability and lowers the threshold for tears.
Stress can aggravate skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis or lead to additional issues like rashes and hives. High cortisol also slows the skin’s natural healing process. Take note if your skin worsens with no apparent cause.
Have you noticed more hair clogging your shower drain or falling out when you brush? Stress may put your hair follicles into overdrive. Rapid shedding of hair is a common symptom of prolonged or extreme stress. The hair loss is usually temporary once your stress levels decrease.
Get Help For Stress Signs and Symptoms
If you’ve noticed several recent stress signs and symptoms, it may be time to seek help. You don’t have to resign yourself to living with stress.
Bradley Barker is a Christian counselor and psychotherapist that understands the pressures of modern life. Therapy can provide insight and proven techniques to help you better manage the causes of stress and anxiety to regain balance.
Contact today to schedule your first appointment. With faith-based wisdom and practical coping strategies, we can work together to ease your stress overload and renew your sense of joy and purpose.