In our busy, modern lives, stress is often seen as unavoidable. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s important to recognize the signs that you’re under stress. Then, you can make a plan to manage it, find balance, and improve your physical and mental well-being. From changes in appetite to difficulty concentrating, understanding the signs of stress can help you take the necessary steps to reduce your stress levels and find the balance you need. In this blog post, we look at five common signs of stress and ways to manage them to create a healthier life.
What is stress?
Stress can be a constant part of life, affecting our mental and physical well-being. It comes from both positive and negative life experiences. It can range from a feeling of being overwhelmed to the emotional and physical exhaustion caused by extreme pressure. Recognizing stress and its effects on us can help us manage it healthily and productively.
Our bodies are naturally built to respond to stress with the help of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones alert us to danger and help us respond with the “fight or flight” response. In the short term, this helps us focus our attention and cope with difficult situations.
However, if stress becomes chronic, it can affect our overall health and cause weakened immunity, headaches, and anxiety. To manage chronic stress, it is important to take time to develop healthy coping mechanisms such as engaging in physical activity, practicing positive self-talk, and communicating effectively with those around us.
Sign #1: Changes in Appetite
Stress is known to impact many aspects of health, including appetite. Many people suffer from changes in appetite during periods of stress, due to the connection between our hormones and neurotransmitters. During intense stress, your body releases hormones that can affect hunger, making it more likely that a person will either overeat or not eat enough.
When a person is feeling strained, their body may react by seeking out “comfort foods”, usually high-sugar or high-fat items. This type of eating serves an emotional purpose of soothing, rather than a physiological one.
Other changes in appetite can also take place, such as a complete lack of appetite. When faced with stress, the body may reduce appetite to conserve energy. The reduction of food intake during periods of stress can lead to malnutrition, as the body is not receiving the nourishment it needs.
People dealing with stress should prioritize healthy eating, to ensure the body still gets the nutrition it needs. Alternatively, providing oneself with comfort during times of tension can help bridge the gap between emotional needs and physical nourishment.
Sign #2: Increased Moodiness
Stress can lead to increased moodiness and irritability, which can have a profound effect on our mental and emotional well-being. When we experience stress, our body releases a cascade of hormones that activate the ‘fight or flight’ response. This reaction causes a heightened state of alertness, making us more sensitive to our emotions and increasing our sensitivity to change. In addition, our cortisol levels increase, making us more prone to mood swings and short-term irritability.
Having high levels of stress can also have a huge impact on our ability to think clearly, make decisions, and stay calm in ordinarily manageable situations. As we become more and more overwhelmed with stress, our moods become intensified. Then, we find ourselves stuck in an uncontrollable loop of negative thinking and negative emotions.
To make matters worse, this increase in moodiness can lead to further unhealthy habits and behaviors as we try to deal with the situation. The best way to manage this type of stress is to take a step back and react appropriately. That could look like talking to someone about how we are feeling or taking a brief break from our daily tasks.
Sign #3: Constant Worrying
Stress can be a very tiring and emotionally draining experience. It can lead to a lot of worrying, which can make it hard to relax or even think. Constant worrying can be an extremely exhausting activity and it can lead to stress taking over your life. It can also hurt your ability to have a healthy lifestyle and be productive.
When you’re constantly worrying, it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything. It can cause a lack of concentration, leaving you feeling exhausted and unable to focus. Worrying can also make it difficult to sleep, cause you to feel drained and unable to function effectively.
Worrying can greatly impact our lives, making us feel overwhelmed and unable to take control of our own lives. If you are experiencing constant worrying, take time to unwind and relax, or talk to a friend or therapist. Remember that even though stress can lead to constant worrying, it is not an insurmountable problem. There are ways to manage it and begin to experience a healthier life.
Sign #4: Difficulty Concentrating and Memory Lapses
Stress can lead to deficits in concentration and focus. When we are stressed, our brains become overwhelmed. It becomes harder to pay attention and stay organized. When faced with tasks that require concentration, our thinking becomes muddled. We can’t access the same level of sustained attention or problem-solving capacity that we’d normally have. It becomes harder to filter out distractions and stay focused, which may lead to impulsive decision-making.
In addition to difficulty concentrating, stress can also cause memory lapses. Because stress is such an all-encompassing state for both our bodies and minds, it can be difficult for our brains to commit new information to memory and recall stored information. Our brain has to work harder to store and retrieve data. Tasks that normally seem simple may become vast challenges when done in a stressful environment. The cognitive overload of prolonged stress can cause us to forget even routine activities, such as what we were doing in the middle of a task or where we placed something. Managing stress can help improve concentration and reduce our chances of experiencing memory lapses.
Sign #5: Loss of Interest in Hobbies
Stress has a multifaceted effect on an individual’s life. Not only can it wreak havoc on physical and mental health, but it can also diminish a person’s motivation to participate in hobbies. This effect can manifest in a variety of ways. Many people find themselves unable to focus or feel motivated to engage in the activities they used to enjoy before stress negatively impacted their life.
When people are stressed, their body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone plays an important role in the body’s response to stress and can reduce brain’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. The lack of serotonin can cause a decrease in the production of dopamine, which drives the reward system in the brain and motivates people to be engaged in different activities.
High cortisol levels can cause an increase in fatigue, making it difficult to participate in hobbies or any other physical or creative pursuit. People who are stressed or overwhelmed will therefore find it harder to enjoy regular leisure activities since these activities don’t produce the same amount of pleasure as they once did.
One way to work through these feelings surrounding your mental health is by using coping mechanisms such as journaling.
We all experience stress. However, learning to recognize the signs and take appropriate measures can go a long way in ensuring a healthy and happy life. From changes in appetite to a loss of interest in hobbies, knowing the effects of stress helps us learn ways to reduce its impact and improve our overall well-being. While managing stress can be difficult, it is possible and the rewards are well worth the effort. So, if you feel like you may be experiencing signs of stress, take a few moments to evaluate and make a plan to reduce your stress levels. With the right strategies in place, you can create a healthier, happier life.