8 Signs You Have Too Much Stress (and How to Relax) (2022)

8 Signs You Have Too Much Stress (and How to Relax) (1)

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Unless you surround yourself with Tibetan monks, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone in your life — including you — that wouldn’t say they’re stressed about something. There are times when stress can be a good thing— it can help you conquer fears or motivate you to get something done. But when you’re constantly in a state of tension and anxiety, it can have an effect on your body’sphysical and emotional state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of all illness and disease is stress-related. In honor of Mental Health Month, we encourage you to take time each day to de-stress and do something that makes you happy. Takea walk, write in a journal or pull out a paintbrush. Want more ways to get a handle on your stress levels? Catch the red flags. Here are some not-so-obvious signsthat you need to relax a bit more — and how to do it.

RELATED:What Mental Health Experts Do to De-Stress

(Video) How stress affects your brain - Madhumita Murgia

8 Unexpected Signs You Have Too Much Stress in Your Life

1. You’re perpetually sick and just can’t seem to get over it.

If it seems like every week you’ve got a cough, sore throat or a fever, you might want to blame your workload and not just your sneezing coworker. “When we are under extreme pressure, our bodies secrete a stress hormone called cortisol that can help us short-term,” says Richard Colgan, MD, professor of family and community medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine and author of Advice to the Healer. “But if you’re stressed out constantly, these hormones aren’t as helpful and can become depleted over time.” Colgan says cortisol and other hormones are components of the immune system that help the body cope with stress. But when these hormones are withdrawn, we become more susceptible to sickness.

And the side effects don’t end there. “Stress can also slow wound healing, contribute to the reactivation of latent viruses and increase vulnerability to viral infections,” says Keri Tuit, clinical psychologist at Yale University.

What to do: Listen to your body when you feel tired or drained. Make time for rest and extra sleep. Whether you recently spent time traveling or finalizing a huge work project, allow your body the time it needs to recover.

“A tired body is not well prepared to cope with stressful situations and ward off illness.”

2. You’re having trouble concentrating.

When you’re too overwhelmed to focus on what’s in front of you, it could be a sign you’re overworked. Research has connected long-term exposure to excess amounts of cortisol to shrinking of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, says Tuit. Studies have shown that long-term stress stimulates growth of the proteins that might cause Alzheimer’s disease.

What to do: If you find that you’re experiencing this during the workday, taking a few long inhales and exhales can help. “Deep, even breathing not only affects whether or not our thoughts control us or we control them. It also affects the bodily sensations that are experienced when faced with a high-stress situation,” says Tuit. This type of breathing can help control the heart rate and blood flow, as well as muscle tension, she says.

(Video) 28 SIGNS YOUR BODY IS CRYING FOR HELP

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3. You have a constant headache that just won’t go away.

If you experience throbbing or feel pressure anywhere on the head or temple area, there’s a good chance it’s a tension or stress headache, says Dr. Colgan. Oftentimes people point to particular troubles in their life that might be causing this pain, but lifestyle might be to blame instead. Keep in mind, if your head pain feels like a “migraine headache,” “the worst headache of your life,” or a headache that wakens you from sleep, those are signs of a dangerous health problem. You should visit a doctor immediately, advises Dr. Colgan.

What to do: “When stress is the cause of your headache, the easiest thing to say is, ‘have less stress in your life.’ But that advice itself is stressful,” says Dr. Colgan. Knowing what your headache‘s coming from is helpful therapy. People oftentimes feel worse worrying and trying to figure out what the cause could be. So knowing it’s not some serious health problem may make a person feel better. “Sometimes the most effective way a doctor can treat a patient is to teach them about their symptoms,” says Dr. Colgan.

4. Your back or neck is always aching.

If you’ve got knots in your shoulders, a stiff neck or your lower back cramped up after a long day, it could be the constant of a job or personal situation, not just the position you sit in during the day. “High levels of stress and tension create discomfort and muscle pain by tightening muscles and causing muscle spasms,” says Dr. Colgan. And stiff muscles in your neck can also lead to headaches, he says.

If your back pain developed after an accident or emotional trauma, it could also be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute of Health recommends talking to your primary doctor, as many people aren’t able to heal their back pain until they deal with the emotional stress that’s causing it.

What to do: “Many relaxation techniques can help with stress reduction, including guided imagery, taking deep breaths from the diaphragm, meditation, massages and yoga,” says Tuit. Try devoting time for stretching breaks throughout the day to help prevent muscles from tightening up. Make time for some of these yoga poses to unwind at the end of the day.

(Video) 6 Daily Habits to Reduce Stress & Anxiety

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5. You having trouble sleeping well.

“If you find yourself waking up and worrying or ruminating over things, it could be a sign of anxiety or depression,” says Dr. Colgan. After a long day, sleep should come easy and getting into bed should finally be a time when you can shut your brain off. If you feel tired but have a difficult time falling asleep, it’s possible you have stress-related fatigue.

What to do: Talk to your doctor if this is regular occurrence. Discuss whether your chronic stress may have led to depression, says Dr. Colgan. When you’re not sleeping well, everyday annoyances might make you feel even more overwhelmed and frustrated because you’re more vulnerable. “A tired body is not well prepared to cope with stressful situations and ward off illness,” says Tuit. She suggests addressing your sleep issues by asking yourself if you’re getting six or more hours of sleep each night. If not, determine what’s interfering with that. “Cutting back on caffeinated and alcoholic beverages and increasing exercise can also improve sleep patterns,” she says.

6. Your hair is starting to fall out.

If you’re waking up with more than a few strands on your pillow, you may be suffering from alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune skin diseasebrought on when the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. It causes small round patches of hair loss on the scalp. “It’s not dangerous, but it’s likely to be associated with a severe stressor, like an assault or significant traumatic event in one’s life,” says Dr. Colgan. This disease is more likely to occur in young women or adolescent girls.

What to do: In most cases, this is typically a temporary condition and your hair will grow back once stress is minimized. But don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about what’s going on, says Dr. Colgan. While your MD might recommend injectable scalp steroids to help with hair growth, it’s best to have an examination. The hair loss could possibly be a sign of a scalp fungal infection, a bacterial function or even a thyroid disorder.

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(Video) 20 Signs of TOO MUCH Stress - Dr. Berg

7. You’re getting UTIs.

If you’ve ever been in a meeting that dragged on for hours or didn’t get up from your desk for a bathroom break, you could be putting yourself at risk for urinary tract infections, says Dr. Colgan. “When people are under increased stress or working too hard, they sometimes put off going to the bathroom, but that’s one of the biggest risk factors for a UTI,” says Dr. Colgan, who’s also a UTI expert.

What to do: C’mon, you’re an adult! When you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, give yourself permission to take a break and go. An uncomfortable urinary infection is going to feel way worse than those few minutes you spent trying to crank out your work.

8. Your sex life is suffering.

While you or your partner might not be aware of it, stress and tension are the leading causes of erectile dysfunction. “A lot of men walk into my office and say they want Viagra, but oftentimes I’ll tell them I don’t think a pill will help their problem when I believe it’s stress that’s causing the issue,” says Dr. Colgan. It’s a vicious cycle, as erectile dysfunction can also cause more stress for the person experiencing it. “And since they’re stressed, sometimes guys will start drinking alcohol to reduce their inhibitions, but I’ll remind them that this is a muscle relaxer, so it won’t help them perform better in their sexual relations,” he says.

What to do: Identify what’s causing the problem. “I tell patients, the body and mind are like significant others: When one doesn’t feel well, the other sympathizes,” says Dr. Colgan. “If you’re having a rocky relationship, increased financial stresses, or lost your job, it’s illogical to think that with all that worry and tension in your life, your body is going to stand by idly and not act differently.”

Dr. Colgan also recommends talking with your partner to let them know what’s going on in order to work through the problem. “I tell them the answer isn’t a pill. The solution is for you and your partner to communicate so you can help them understand that you’re under a lot of stress and tension right now.” If you can work to relieve that tension, your sex life should improve as well.

What are your favorite tips to minimize stress in your life? Share them in the comments below.

(Video) How to reduce stress with the 2:1 breathing technique

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Originally published March 2014. Updated May 2017.

FAQs

What are the 7 signs that you are under stress overload? ›

7 signs that you are stressed out
  • Not enough time.
  • Your work accumulates.
  • You don't delegate.
  • You don't reach your goals.
  • You make promises you cannot keep.
  • You don't sleep.
  • You miss opportunities.
7 Oct 2015

What are 10 mental signs of stress? ›

Warnings signs of stress in adults may include:
  • Crying spells or bursts of anger.
  • Difficulty eating.
  • Losing interest in daily activities.
  • Increasing physical distress symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains.
  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless.
  • Avoiding family and friends.
16 May 2022

How can I get rid of stress fast? ›

Advertisement
  1. Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. ...
  2. Meditate. ...
  3. Laugh more. ...
  4. Connect with others. ...
  5. Assert yourself. ...
  6. Try yoga. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Keep a journal.

What happens after too much stress? ›

Common effects of stress

Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

What is the biggest cause of stress? ›

Stress is up.

Concerns about money, work and the economy top the list of most frequently cited sources of stress. Fears about job stability are on the rise, with 49 percent of respondents citing such fears as a source of stress — up from 44 percent last year.

Can stress make you ill? ›

Too much stress, however, can suppress your immune system and cause you to get sick more easily. Prolonged periods of stress can also increase your risk of several diseases, including heart disease and cancer. According to a study, 60 to 80 percent of doctor's office visits may be stress-related.

Can stress Make You Sick? ›

But can you actually get sick from stress? The short answer is yes. Stress sickness can contribute to many health issues, including: Anxiety.

Does crying relieve stress? ›

Releases toxins and relieves stress

When humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals. Researchers believe that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which could, in turn, reduce stress.

How do I know if I'm too stressed? ›

Some of the psychological and emotional signs that you're stressed out include:
  1. Depression or anxiety.
  2. Anger, irritability, or restlessness.
  3. Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused.
  4. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  5. Racing thoughts or constant worry.
  6. Problems with your memory or concentration.
  7. Making bad decisions.
16 Nov 2020

What is best medicine for stress? ›

The most common medications to manage symptoms of stress are tranquilizers, beta-blockers, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), among others. Additional treatments may include acupuncture and herbal remedies.
...
Common types
  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • diazepam (Valium)
30 Aug 2022

What food reduces stress? ›

“That means fewer processed foods and more whole foods.” The goal is to eat foods that reduce inflammation in your body, thus reducing cortisol levels. Here are some foods that help combat stress by lowering your cortisol.
...
Magnesium-rich foods
  • Avocados.
  • Bananas.
  • Broccoli.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Spinach.
15 Jun 2021

Why am I so easily stressed? ›

Mental health conditions, such as depression, or a building sense of frustration, injustice, and anxiety can make some people feel stressed more easily than others. Previous experiences may affect how a person reacts to stressors. Common major life events that can trigger stress include: job issues or retirement.

How long does stress last? ›

How long does stress last? Stress can be a short-term issue or a long-term problem, depending on what changes in your life. Regularly using stress management techniques can help you avoid most physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress.

Who suffers from stress the most? ›

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), those people aged 18-33 years old suffer the highest levels of stress in the nation, In an assessment measuring stress, the millennial generation scored a 5.4 (on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to the national average of 4.9.

What the Bible says about stress? ›

Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Luke 12:25: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

How do you deal with overwhelming stress? ›

Try some of these tips when you're feeling overwhelmed:
  1. Take a deep breath and step away. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, a quick way to begin to alleviate those feelings is by doing breathing exercises. ...
  2. Create a “no” list. ...
  3. Be kind to yourself. ...
  4. Ask for help from a loved one. ...
  5. Write it out.
17 Mar 2021

What stress does to your stomach? ›

When we're stressed, hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the body. This can negatively impact gut motility, or the way our intestines and stomach squeeze and move waste through the body. Also, stress can affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing GI discomfort.

Where do you feel stress in your body? ›

Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.

How do I know if I have stress? ›

Physical symptoms of stress include:
  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
  • Trouble having sex.
28 Jan 2021

Does crying relieve stress? ›

Releases toxins and relieves stress

When humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals. Researchers believe that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which could, in turn, reduce stress.

What physical symptoms can stress cause? ›

These effects might include:
  • Diffculty breathing.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle aches and headaches.
  • Chest pains and high blood pressure.
  • Indigestion or heartburn.

Where is sadness stored in the body? ›

When an emotion is not fully processed, it may become “stuck” in the body. However, it's the limbic structures of the brain where emotional processing occurs.

Can stress Make You Sick? ›

But can you actually get sick from stress? The short answer is yes. Stress sickness can contribute to many health issues, including: Anxiety.

Why do I get stressed so easily? ›

Mental health conditions, such as depression, or a building sense of frustration, injustice, and anxiety can make some people feel stressed more easily than others. Previous experiences may affect how a person reacts to stressors. Common major life events that can trigger stress include: job issues or retirement.

How does a doctor test for stress? ›

A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. Or you'll receive a drug that mimics the effects of exercise.

How do doctors test stress levels? ›

The test itself is simple: A nurse or lab technician will use a needle to take a blood sample from a vein in your arm. Your results will show the level of cortisol in your blood at the time of the test. Your doctor will tell you if yours falls in the normal range.

What stress does to your brain? ›

Stress Shrinks the Brain

While the overall volume of the brain tends to remain about the same, it has been found that chronic stress in otherwise healthy individuals can cause areas of the brain associated with emotions, metabolism, and memory to shrink.

Is it better to cry or hold it in? ›

It's best not to hold in emotions all the time, but sometimes it's important to hold back tears. If you need to control a cry, try to hold back your tears just until you're in a better place for them. This way you won't suppress your emotions altogether.

Videos

1. 13 Signs You Are Suffering From Too Much Stress
(BRAINY DOSE)
2. 6 Signs of Stress You Shouldn't Ignore
(Psych2Go)
3. Workplace Mental Health - all you need to know (for now) | Tom Oxley | TEDxNorwichED
(TEDx Talks)
4. How stress affects your body - Sharon Horesh Bergquist
(TED-Ed)
5. 8 Signs You Should Stop Fasting
(Siim Land)
6. Stress is KILLING You | This is WHY and What You Can Do | Dr. Joe Dispenza (Eye Opening Speech)
(Motivation2Study)

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