10 Signs You're Overly Stressed
Stress affects us all. You may feel stressed when at work, managing finances, or disciplining your kids. Like it or not, stress is an ever-present part of our lives.
What is Stress?
In simple terms, stress is the body's response to environmental conditions- real or perceived. When a person faces a threat or challenge, no matter how small or large, a chemical reaction occurs in the body that allows them to take on the challenge. During intense stress, heart rate increases, breathing becomes heavy, and blood pressure rises.
Although some stress can help motivate you to get stuff done, too much can cause harm. To cope with stress, some people may resort to smoking, overeating, and become physically inactive. These bad habits can increase blood pressure and cholesterol. High levels of stress can also negatively affect your relationships, happiness, work, as well as your overall health and well-being.
The first step to managing stress, understanding when it occurs and understanding its cause, both can be hard to figure out. We're so used to being stressed, we often don't realize it until we reach our breaking point. Since stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, cognitive capability, and physical health, it is important to identify the signs as soon as they appear. Look for these 10 signs to know if you are overly stressed:
#1 High heart rate
One of the first and most evident signs of stress is low Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Looking at HRV is an effective way to identify imbalances in the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS). When a person is stressed, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. When a person is relaxed, the variation between beats is high. HRV is a good indicator of your body's state of health.
#2 Changes in appetite
If you find yourself eating too much or not eating at all, it may be due to stress. Loss of appetite is usually the first response to stress; the hormones that get produced when you are stressed suppress the digestive system. The appetite suppressing hormone corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) causes your body to break down food slower, making you feel less hungry. In some cases, prolonged stress can also cause the body to release a hormone called cortisol that makes you crave high-calorie comfort foods. This leads to overeating.
Stress can get you feeling tired very easily even after doing the simplest of things. It's an energy-drainer; it robs all of your body systems of vitality, making you tired and exhausted. Your body feels like it's working overtime, decreasing energy levels where even a night's sleep is not enough to recharge you for the next day.
#4 Lack of restful sleep
Despite a good night's sleep, if you have trouble getting out of bed every day, it's likely due to stress. Imagine feeling exhausted the whole day and then not being able to sleep peacefully at night! Stress-related insomnia stems from being unable to stop thinking about your worries, combined with your body being tired all the time. Insomnia will make you even more exhausted the following day, which will only increase stress levels furthermore.
#5 Prone to colds/flu
Exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system. Since your body is working overtime, it'll find itself harder to recover from minor ailments, making it more difficult for your body to fight off even the slightest cold. Your immune system becomes suppressed, and you might find yourself being sick for days.
When stressed, you worry about all the things on your plate at once. With your mind gets distracted, it becomes tough to keep track of all your daily tasks, and you become absent-minded. You may find yourself forgetting where you put your car keys or what time your next meeting is.
#7 Gastric problems
In addition to causing emotional and psychological discomfort, stress is also known to cause digestive problems. Prolonged tension and anxiety trigger stomach acid production - a major cause of gastritis, stomach ulcers, nausea, and other digestive system issues.
Although a certain amount of gastric acid is essential for digestion, stress can cause overproduction, resulting in erosive gastropathy or stress-induced gastritis.
Stress makes you easily agitated, frustrated, and moody. When too many things pile up, you tend to become irritable and angry. Stress can either cause the body to go into fight mode (making you irrational) or shut down completely (making you irresponsible). Whatever the outcome, you could find yourself easily snapping at people, making them stressed as well.
#9 Body aches
When you are stressed, your body gets into a hyperactive mode to compensate. This fatigue not only affects your focus and attention levels, but it also puts a physical strain on your body. Making you more prone to headaches and soreness, which brings down your energy levels and makes you feel lethargic and inactive.
#10 Emotional Breakdowns
Stress is also known to cause varying levels of emotional distress including mood swings, anxiety, depression, and cognitive incapability. When stress crosses a threshold, the body releases several hormones to calm you. However, too much of these hormones can drive a continued feeling of low energy or low morale. The inability to cope with stress makes people extremely emotional. This can lead to depression in the long run.
Take Charge of your Health
Although stress is an inevitable part of life, what really matters is how you handle it. Detecting stress early on will make it easier for you to take action and find ways to cope before it builds up. Simple ways to cope with stress include giving yourself a break, stepping away from your desk for a few minutes, exercising, meditation, taking a hot shower, or reading among others. While one cannot avoid stress in a fast-paced world, one can surely balance it with activities that promote recovery to calm the body. This may be the key to being happy and healthy!