Whether you are juggling work and family life, trying to balance your finances or simply caught up in the angst reported in the never-ending news cycles, chances are that you have some degree of stress in your life. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It can challenge us to meet deadlines, work harder and overcome difficulty. However, when you experience ongoing stress without a break, your body does not have a chance to recover and health problems can develop. Learning to recognise the symptoms of stress is the first step toward taking control of your health and making the changes you need to control your stress levels.
Headaches are often the first sign of stress and may be caused from being overworked or neglecting the basics of self-care. There are many reasons that people get headaches from stress. If your stress is keeping you from getting a full night's sleep then you may have the heavy, foggy pain of a 'tired headache'. Stress may also lead to a poor appetite, causing your blood sugar to drop and give you a headache. A poor diet, high in sugars, may also cause your blood sugar to fluctuate and give you a headache.
Sugar may also increase inflammation, exacerbating muscular or joint pain the neck. Many stress headaches are also caused by muscle pain. Clenching or grinding the teeth is a common sign of stress and can lead to aching around the jaw and temple. Stress often affects posture. People tend to hunch forward as if in a defensive stance and this poor posture causes the muscles in the neck to work harder until they become inflamed and create a headache.
Stress has the effect of suppressing the immune system. This is often made worse if you aren't eating well enough to get a variety of fresh vegetables. Pay attention to your posture and breathing, as well. Under stress, many people adopt a shallow breathing pattern and a hunched posture. This prevents the lungs from performing a complete exhalation and receiving fresh air in exchange.
If you have frequent colds, colds that linger or colds that turn into worse illnesses like bronchitis, then it's likely that stress is preventing you from getting better. Take a break and spend a few days resting and taking care of yourself.
Stress can really do a number on your insides. Nausea is a common first symptom of stress and often a reason that stress makes people eat poorly. Stress also affects the production of saliva and stomach acids, which may prevent you from chewing your food completely and then make it more difficult for your stomach to begin the digestive process.
Unfortunately, these factors increase the likelihood of having other digestive ailments like gas, constipation or diarrhoea. Your body doesn't process food properly before it reaches the intestine. Then, stress can affect the muscles that push food through you lower abdomen. The change in stomach acidity combined with poor eating and digestion will even affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract. The trouble with all these digestion problems is that in addition to preventing you from eating the balanced diet that is crucial to reducing the symptoms of stress, you now also have the additional stress of having to cope with tummy troubles.
Difficulty Thinking Clearly
Constant worrying, lack of sleep and rushing from one task to another can cause problems with your thought processes. You may find that you can't focus or concentrate on a task, that you have trouble following instructions or understanding what you read. You may become overwhelmed with problems and perceive things as being worse than they actually are. Be careful making decisions, this would be a good time to ask friends for a second opinion as poor judgement is a frequent symptom of overwhelming stress.
Changes in Behaviour
Stress can come with a host of emotional problems that change the way you behave. If you've been under stress for a very long time, you may think these issues are natural to you and not even realise that they are caused by stress.
At its worst, stress can lead to long term depression, difficulty starting or finishing tasks and even mood swings. You may find yourself avoiding people or procrastinating to avoid decisions. Feeling bad about yourself, turning to drugs or alcohol or lashing out at the people you love may all be symptoms of stress.