Symptoms of Stress - A businessman sitting at his laptop looking stressed

How to Identify Symptoms of Stress

Stress is a normal and unavoidable part of life. It is your body’s natural response (through a rapid combination of metabolic reactions) to demand or threat, typically referred to as your “fight or flight” response. Some people excel in stressful situations, gaining focus and energy, while others become quickly anxious or confused.

In short bursts, stress can help you focus under pressure, heighten reflexes in emergencies, or motivate you to reach your potential. However, if you find yourself frequently agitated or overwhelmed, whether, through relationships or responsibilities, it’s time to identify your symptoms of stress and bring your nervous system back into balance.

You can experience both positive and negative stress, so it’s not always detrimental to your health. By recognizing your symptoms of stress, you can implement practical steps to reduce the risk of developing chronic stress and its harmful effects.

Identifying the Symptoms of Stress

Stress can easily creep up on you, and without being conscious of it, you adapt to it, normalize it, it even feels familiar, and that’s when it starts to take its toll. Be aware that long periods of stress can impact every aspect of your life, including physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive.

The following four checklists detail emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms commonly experienced by people impacted by stress. Be mindful that symptoms can vary as people handle stress differently. Pre-existing medical conditions and environmental factors may also contribute to symptoms. Although not exhaustive, it is important to note that not all of these symptoms automatically indicate stress. That’s why it’s vital to be able to identify your signs, understand your triggers, and develop a personalized management strategy.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression, low self-esteem, sadness
  • Loneliness, isolation
  • Anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, apprehensive, nervous
  • Agitation, easily disturbed, tense, frustrated
  • Mood swings, irritability, angry, teary
  • Powerless, loss of control, lack of confidence

Physical Symptoms

  • Low energy, fatigue, exhaustion
  • Headaches, dizziness
  • Nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation
  • Aches, pains, muscle tension
  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia, disturbed sleep
  • Frequent colds and infections, weakened immune system
  • Loss of sexual drive or sexual dysfunction
  • Nervousness, trembling, ringing ears, cold or sweaty hands or feet
  • Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw, grinding teeth
  • Stooped posture
  • Menstrual problems
  • Skin problems, acne, psoriasis, eczema
  • Hair loss

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Constant worrying or overthinking
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Pessimism
  • Forgetfulness, memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning new things
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Poor judgment

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Procrastinating, avoiding responsibilities
  • Abusing alcohol, drugs, cigarettes
  • Eating disorders, under or overeating
  • Nervous habits, nail-biting, fidgeting, trembling, pacing
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Impulsive actions
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Overly critical, bossy
  • Withdrawing from people, avoiding social interactions

Chronic Stress Relief

Consequences of chronic stress can disrupt nearly every physiological system. It is associated with heart disease, increased risk of stroke, degenerative neurovascular disease, osteoporosis, early aging and mortality. It can also rewire your brain, exposing you to anxiety, depression, compulsive use of harmful substances and self-sabotaging behaviours, which only perpetuate the cycle.

Given the far reaching and potentially very serious health implications of chronic stress, It’s essential to recognize and identify how stress affects you, and learn how to relieve stress, so you can build your stress resilience.

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