Stress affects your body in innumerable ways. It can influence our hormones, brain chemistry, diet, psychology and much more. Because stress affects so many aspects of the body and mind, symptoms of stress can manifest in a variety of ways. Here are seven symptoms of stress that might indicate you’re overstressed and just haven’t realized it yet.
1. Sleep Disturbances
Insomnia is very common in the general population, but even more common among those who experience more stress than average. As you may already know, stress puts the body into fight-or-flight mode. When the body is in this state, it is hyper-aroused. This means that it can be much more difficult to fall asleep. Stressors that can keep you from falling asleep include anxiety, rumination, stressful life events, not relaxing enough before bed and the physical stress that can be caused by things like illness, injury and menopause. If you’ve started having unusual sleep problems, it’s likely that you’re stressed out.
Rumination is similar to worry. The difference is that when you worry, you obsess over the future, and when you ruminate, you obsess about the past. It’s natural that stressful events might cause you to ruminate about them afterward, but continuing to ruminate about your problems will only bring you more stress in the long run. A habit of rumination will also make your brain more predisposed to future negative thoughts, due to a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Therefore, if you catch yourself ruminating, you should stop yourself and find a healthy stress-relieving practice to replace the rumination. Interestingly, women are much more likely to ruminate than men.
If stress is coming at you from all sides, you’ll probably feel like you’re at the end of your rope. You’ll feel tense, snappy and impatient. This is another symptom of stress that can quickly escalate into a vicious cycle. Being impatient for things to happen quickly or for your problems to be solved can bring you more stress if your expectations don’t match up with reality. One study showed that people who are more impatient have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure in the future. Cultivating greater patience is good for both your mind and body.
4. Aches and Pains
Too much stress can manifest in the form of painful physical symptoms. Muscle tension is a very common one and it can cause pain especially in the shoulders and back. Stress can also cause tension headaches or migraines. Furthermore, many people with chronic conditions like arthritis find that the pain worsens under stress. You should not ignore physical pain. Eliminating sources of stress in your life and dealing with any remaining stress in a healthy way can help ensure that you don’t have to endure stress-related physical pain.
5. Weight Fluctuation
If your clothes suddenly don’t fit anymore and you don’t know why, you could be experiencing more stress than you realize. Weight fluctuation caused by stress can go both ways. You may lose weight if you regularly are too busy to eat, or are so stressed out that you’re not in the mood to eat. You may gain weight under stress if you use the pleasure of food to avoid feeling negative emotions. Neither of these situations is healthy. If stress is causing you to miss meals, relieve or eliminate that stress and re-prioritize healthy eating; if the stress is causing you to binge eat, over-eat, or eat lots of junk food, then try to find a new way to relieve stress that does not involve food.
Different people react to life stress in different ways. While some people may become depressed when stress invades their life, and some may become irritable, others still may experience heightened anxiety. Anxiety is a manifestation of the “fight-or-flight” mode of hyper-arousal, so it naturally ties in with the effects of stress on the body. You may be more likely to develop anxiety in response to stress if the stressor is something that causes you fear, especially if it leaves you in fear of occurring again in the future. If you’ve been feeling anxious or nervous, you may want to take a closer look at your life to find out what’s causing you stress.
7. Mood Swings
Mood swings can make your day-to-day life feel like a roller coaster ride. They can leave both you and the people around you feeling confused. Of course, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions throughout the day, but when emotional changes are swift and drastic, they qualify as mood swings. Mood swings in women are usually caused by rapid hormone fluctuations. Hormones can shift for a wide variety of reasons including menstrual changes, menopause and pregnancy. However, one common predicament is that chronic stress causes hormone changes that lead to mood swings.