Warning Signs and Symptoms of Stress

What are your warning signs and symptoms of stress? Knowing your stress symptoms allows you to put in place strategies to remain calm and relaxed.

Modern life is full of stress. Deadlines at work, concerns about job security, financial worries, and other daily hassles. For many people stress is a fact of life, but stress does not have to be a way of life!

While you can't avoid stress, knowing your symptoms of stress is an important step to taking control of stress.

Under stress your body diverts resources away from bodily maintenance to high alert and preparedness for ‘fight or flight’.

Constantly running in emergency-mode means stress can take it's toll on you physically and emotionally.

If you frequently feel frazzled and overwhelmed then it is time to take control of stress.

Here we provide some of the common warning signs and symptoms. These include:

  • physical stress symptoms
  • emotional signs of stress
  • relational or behavioral stress symptoms.

Physical symptoms of stress

Stress affects each of us differently which means that each of us has our own unique stress signature. However there are some common short and long-term physical stress symptoms.

When stressed there are a number of things that occur to us physiologically which result in stress symptoms.

Blood is shunted to vital organs.

As the fight or flight response is activated blood is diverted from less vital organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidney to more vital organs such as the brain, heart, and big muscles.

This results in a number of physical symptoms of stress such as:

  • surface skin temperature drops especially at the extremities. This may also lead to cold and clammy skin
  • loss of appetite
  • excess muscle tension which may be noticed in the shoulders, back, and neck areas. This excess muscle tension is a major cause of a tension headache and is implicated in TMJ syndrome.
  • throat dryness and difficulty swallowing which may cause difficulty in speaking.

Blood pressure and heart rate increase.

When the stress response is activated heart rate and blood pressure increase to supply more blood to the vital organs. Increase heart rate may result in:

Increased blood pressure may result in:

  • high blood pressure
  • headaches such as migraine headaches
  • precipitation of a stroke or heart attack

Increased respiration

To get more oxygen into your blood and vital organs when stressed you increase your respiration rate.

This may result in breathlessness and a disturbance of the oxygen/carbon ratio and hence acid balance in your blood.

This may cause more anxiety stress symptoms.

Other physical symptoms of stress

Other physical stress symptoms include:

  • more flu-like symptoms as a result of the interaction between stress and the immune system
  • digestion problems and other stomach complaints which may worsen irritable bowel syndrome for IBS suffers
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • skin problems such as worsening eczema, Psoriasis, and hives. See this article on can stress cause hives?
  • fatigue.

Emotional symptoms of stress

When stressed your body and mind is preparing itself for an emergency. This can mean that you may see things as more threatening and have more negative thoughts than normal.

If the emotional signs of stress are ignored then stress can manifest into depression and anxiety and other more serious emotional issues.

Stress affects your thoughts and feelings. Some common emotional warning signs of stress include:

  • a racing mind, lack of focus, and/or flagging concentration
  • feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or worry. See this article on stress and anxiety and what you can do.
  • depression. What is the stress depression connection and what role that stress play in teen depression.
  • increased moodiness and emotional instability or mood swings
  • feeling that you can't cope with things
  • a lack of sense of humor
  • frustration, irritability and anger. If stress causes you anger, then these anger management tips could be beneficial.
  • poorer memory and a tendency to see mainly negative aspects of people and/or situations
  • feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem.

Behavioral symptoms of stress

Stress not only affects you physically and emotionally, but can also escalate into anti-social behavior that puts pressure on relationships with family, co-workers, and others.

Some of the behavioral signs of stress include:

  • increased arguments or outbursts of anger with little provocation
  • withdrawing from social activities or activities that you once enjoyed
  • increased sleep problems. What's the connection between stress and sleep disorders and what natural sleep aids can you use for a better night's sleep.
  • less productivity and reduced job satisfaction increased likelihood of job burnout
  • excessive drinking of alcohol and/or smoking
  • increased coffee consumption
  • overeating or a loss of appetite
  • less interest in sex
  • greater impatience and frustration.

What you can do today to manage your stress symptoms

It is important to be aware that there are a number of illnesses and health conditions that may contribute to all of these symptoms of stress.

While your doctor may work hard to evaluate all the possibilities, ultimately the responsibility is likely to be yours.

There are a number of ways that you can consider if these symptoms are caused by stress. Some clues that the symptoms may be attributed to stress include:

  • when you have multiple stress symptoms that you can't attribute to other illnesses or conditions
  • when these signs of stress abate when you are relaxed or feeling at ease
  • when these signs of stress increase when you feel overwhelmed or under pressure at work, home, and so forth.

To identify the causes of stress with your symptoms of stress there are a number of things you can do.

  1. Download a stress diary and note when you are aware of the symptoms.
  2. Monitor how often and when the symptoms occur. This will enable you to identify your causes of stress.
  3. Note on stress diary the severity of the stress that you feel.
  4. Target various stress management techniques at the causes or symptoms of stress.

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