Symptoms of Stress

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There are so many different symptoms of stress in the world today, and these symptoms can show in so many different ways. Until you learn to spot the symptoms of stress, you have no hope of combating stress itself, because you won’t even recognise you have it. We’re all stressed! It’s a consequence of modern-day life. No one lives without stress.

Stress can rob you of energy, health, productivity and happiness. You cannot afford to allow stress to sabotage your well-being or quality of life. Stress seems to be mounting on you from all sides – job security, workload, financial worries, family stresses and strains, relationships, illness, day-to-day activities and many other sources of stress.  Your ability to cope is being tested to the full.

Stress refers to – ‘any type of bodily reaction to a mental, physical, emotional or social stimulus – where this reaction changes the way we feel, think or perform our daily tasks’.

Stress describes our body’s automatic, inbuilt response to either “fight” or “flight” from what we perceive as danger, harm or a threat to ourselves. This “fight or flight reaction” is extremely responsive. It’s like the accelerator peddle in a car. Just the slightest pressure gets a reaction. So your “fight or flight response” reacts to the merest threat of potential danger. This could be real danger or just a perception of danger. This is a really important part of the human make up. It is our inbuilt defence mechanism. When something dangerous happens, our bodies will produce this “fight or flight” reaction to let us know that we either need to run away or fight.

Symptoms of stress can be psychological, physical, or both. Some examples that you may relate to are: irritability, lack of concentration, worry, migraines, overeating, not eating enough, not sleeping well, lower back pain, rashes, an upset stomach or ulcers, tension headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pains, to name but a few. Stress can also lower your resistance to disease, and affect how well your body responds to sickness and how well you recover from minor setbacks.

So it is your responsibility to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Whether or not you take the time you need for yourself depends on no one but you. Understand that the amount of stress in your life will not go away unless you make changes to what you do and adopt a healthier lifestyle as well as utilising some new techniques to get in control of your mind, body and soul.

In this day and age, the most typical dangers or threats are less physical. Your ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered by psychological (relating to the mind or mental activity) threats, just as much as they are by physical ones. So mental and emotional pressures activate stress, in the same way as do physical pressures. Many people facing, eviction from their homes, closure of their businesses, losing their job, the break up of their family, perhaps through a acrimonious divorce, seeing a loved one inflicted with cancer, or their child going off the rails, face tremendous pressure leading to stress, as much as our prehistoric ancestors with their physical dangers.

Today with the constant pressures associated with living in a fast-paced world, stress is often constantly affecting us. There is no getting away from the fact that everybody faces stress in one form or another on a daily basis.

Over time stress hormones accumulate in our bodies and eventually, unless we find ways to reduce stress and recover from its effects, we become burnt-out, depressed or see deterioration in our health. It’s this build up, over time, caused by a variety of stressors, which eventually causes us problems.

This stress we experience daily often goes unnoticed, and often just unmanaged. Many people simply put up with stress, just accepting it as the way things are.  Eventually they experience serious physical and mental health problems caused by all this stress.

Your starting point to get in control of stress is to first acquire the knowledge of how to be aware of it in yourself. The physiological changes caused by the fight-or-flight response, result in Stress having a major affect on your mind and body, as well as affecting your behaviour. As each individual is so different, the signs and symptoms of stress differ greatly from person to person. There are literally hundreds of symptoms. Many of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress are shown in the following lists. Do you recognise any of them in yourself?

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms

1. The Physical Effects of Stress

  • Aggressive body language
  • Asthma
  • Backaches
  • Blushing
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Chest pains
  • Cold, sweaty hands and feet
  • Cold chills, or “goose bumps”
  • Constant illness
  • Constant restlessness and fidgeting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty with sexual orgasm
  • Dry mouth
  • Eating disorders
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Eyestrain
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent colds
  • Frequent urination
  • Frowning
  • Gaseousness or belching
  • General aches and pains
  • Gritting or grinding of teeth
  • Headaches
  • Hyperventilation
  • Impotence
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Increased perspiration
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Jaw clenching
  • Jaw pain
  • Joint/Muscle tension
  • Lacking Energy
  • Light-headedness, faintness, or dizziness
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Neck aches
  • Night sweats
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Racing pulse
  • Rashes
  • Ringing in ears
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
  • Sleep problem
  • Slumped posture
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach acidity/heartburn
  • Stuttering or stammering
  • Sudden, suffocating panic
  • Trembling of lips or hands
  • Twitching/Muscle Spasm
  • Ulcers
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Weight Problem

2. Emotional Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Angry outbursts
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Bitterness
  • Blame others
  • Critical of Self and others
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Diminished initiative
  • Emotional or Easily Upset
  • Feeling of worthiness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling tense and “on edge”
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to relax
  • Impatience
  • Irritability,
  • Jealousy
  • Lack Of Concentration,
  • Lack of humour
  • Lack of interest
  • Low self-esteem
  • Moodiness
  • Nervousness
  • Panic Attacks
  • Poor Memory
  • Premenstrual Symptoms
  • Reduced Sex Drive
  • Restlessness
  • Self depreciating
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Sensitivity
  • Short temper
  • Suspiciousness
  • Tendency to cry
  • Withdrawal

3. Behavioural Symptoms

  • A more “serious” appearance
  • Accident Prone
  • Argumentative
  • Constant tiredness
  • Defensiveness or suspiciousness
  • Eating more or less
  • Edginess
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – Need Alcohol to Relax
  • Excessive smoking – Need a Cigarette to Unwind
  • Excessive/Comfort Eating
  • Excitability
  • Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
  • Gambling or overspending
  • Hyperactive, Workaholic or Can’t Stop
  • Impulsiveness
  • Inattention to dress or grooming
  • Increased frustration and irritability
  • Increased number of minor accidents
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Jumpiness
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
  • More frequent lateness
  • Nail biting
  • Need Several Coffee, Tea or Fizzy drinks daily
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
  • Nervous Laughter
  • Overreacting to small problems
  • Overreaction to small things
  • Perfectionism
  • Picking fights with others
  • Procrastination, neglecting responsibilities
  • Recreational drug use
  • Reduced work efficiency or productivity
  • Rushing around or pacing the floor
  • Sleeping problems – too much or too little
  • Social withdrawal
  • Speech Problems – Fast or mumbled speech
  • Strained communication with others
  • Sweet Cravings
  • Taking tranquilizers just to sleep
  • Tearfulness
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
  • Too much time spent on certain activities (e.g. exercising, shopping)
  • Unusual behaviour
  • Weight gain or loss without diet

4. The Mental Effects of Stress

  • A feeling of being a failure
  • A feeling of being bad or self hatred
  • A feeling of being the target of other people’s animosity
  • A feeling of ugliness
  • A sense of being overloaded or overwhelmed by problems
  • An intense fear of open or enclosed space, or of being alone.
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant irritability with people
  • Constant or recurrent fear of disease
  • Constant worrying
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Difficulty in letting go and laughing
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Diminished fantasy life
  • Diminished productivity
  • Disorganization or confusion
  • Dread of the future
  • Errors in judging distance
  • Fear of getting close to people
  • Fearful anticipation
  • Feeling constantly frightened
  • Feeling neglected
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Future Oriented
  • Grammatical errors
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Increased anger and frustration
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Increased smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Indecisiveness
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Lack of interest in life
  • Loneliness
  • Loss of interest in other people
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Mathematical errors
  • Memory problems
  • Moodiness
  • Nightmares
  • No attention to detail
  • Obsessive behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Past oriented,
  • Poor judgment
  • Problems concentration
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rechecking tasks
  • Reduced Creativity
  • Reduced Interest
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Stammering
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • The inability of finishing one task before rushing on to the next
  • Trouble learning new information
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Unable to feel pleasure or enjoyment
  • Very tearful – More frequent crying

Next what you have to do is figure out exactly what stressors affect you. You will benefit from taking the time to sit down and identify the areas of your life that you find the most stressful, so that you may begin to be proactive in eliminating, or at least reducing the stress in that area. This is your starting point, a game plan to map out how you can gain control of yourself and the world around you. You must know where the problem is in order to fix it.

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About the author: Larry Lewis
My name is Larry Lewis, Health & Wellness Life Coach, Founder of Healthy Lifestyles Living, contributor to the Huffington Post, recently featured in the Sunday Mail Newspaper and somebody who went from being an owner of a chain of gyms and fitness fanatic, to a visually impaired overweight and incredibly sick person. Read about my illness to wellness story.
11 Comments
  1. Mattias November 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the lesson Larry!

    Yes, we all need to strive for an unstressed life and despite the high tempo in the development today we don´t need to be stressed but have a smooth tempo for our souls to be happy as the unique persons we are.

  2. SJ November 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    WOW that’s a list and a half there. I never know when I’m stressed as I don’t usually feel stressed, when I realise it it’s too late because I do understand what you mean by the physical symptoms because that’s how my body copes with it.

    I have always said the only way I’ll have a stress free life is if I quite my career and bump myself off to live alone on an island away from the everyday factors 🙂 It’s not likely to happen LOL. Seriously I work in contracting and consulting on implementation projects it’s always going to be a stressful environment and as stressful as it is I love my job so I guess I can put up with that for a bit until I make enough money to retire 🙂

  3. Sulekha Rawat November 22, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Informative and well researched article, Larry. I think stress can be due to hormonal imbalance because of an under active or over active Thyroid gland function. Most of the symptoms of stress are like in hypothyroidism patients. I am one and I know, it becomes difficult to eliminate stress from life because of the chemical imbalance, its a vicious cycle.

  4. Bongo November 22, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Interesting list… I now feel stressed…time for some brainless activity…. As always…XOXOXOOX

  5. rimly November 22, 2011 at 5:39 am

    That was a wealth of information Larry. I have been forgetting chunks of my life. It is a total blank and I have been told it is stress and trauma related. I keep wondering if I will ever get back those lost moments. Thank you for sharing this Larry.

  6. Janaki Nagaraj November 22, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Is there anything that is not there in the list? How do we cope? On autopilot?
    Great informative post.

  7. jan November 22, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Hmmm as I look at you lists I am wonder how I manage to function at all. My stress level has me with nearly every symptom, it is a vicious circle as Sulukha says. To just keep working at it is what I have to do. Changing what I need too and moving forward. Thank you for this a great post.

  8. Alpana Jaiswal November 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I can relate to a number of points there..Because right now,I am totally stressed out..thanks for the information Larry.

  9. Mary Hudak-Colllins November 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Larry, wonderful post although I think if I got rid of the stress in my life, I would be terribly bored. Stress seems to be something that keeps me motivated. I must be twisted or something, huh?

    • LarryLewis December 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      Mary many people are so used to having stress that it becomes like a copmfort blanket around them. They like been on the move all the time, head always seeking answers, always fuighting a clock. But the day they learn to relax is the day that they no longer need to live like a crazed headless chicken.

  10. Aiden Clark December 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Blimey, what a list. I wasn’t even aware that there were so many ways in which stress could show itself. I’m also quite perturbed to see quite a few areas I can relate to! I’ve always put my nail biting down to stress or nerves, and I used to smoke excessively, but thankfully managed to stop. It’s eye opening to see other areas of my life that I now recognise could be stress related. Thanks for the exhaustive list. I’ve bookmarked this!

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