Stress is a natural part of our lives and it comes in various forms. A little bit of stress is actually beneficial as it helps us perform better and stay alert. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Stress overload can have serious consequences on our mental, emotional, and physical health. Below are some signs that indicate you might be experiencing stress overload, along with some strategies for tackling each.
Feeling Overwhelmed: The feeling of being swamped with responsibilities is a major indicator of stress. When we start feeling helpless and paralyzed by the sheer amount of things on our plate, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. That’s why it’s important to recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and take steps to reduce your stress levels. Getting organized, simplifying your schedule, delegating tasks or simply taking a break can all help combat feelings of overwhelm. Remember that getting stressed out is a natural response to life’s challenges, but it’s also a sign that you need to take care of yourself – mentally and physically – in order to manage each situation effectively.
Fatigue: When you feel exhausted and drained, it’s usually a sign that your body is experiencing stress. Fatigue is the body’s way of telling you that something is not right. It’s important to listen to your body because chronic fatigue can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Stress-induced fatigue can be caused by physical or mental exhaustion, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, or an overload of responsibilities. To combat fatigue from stress, it’s important to work on reducing your stress level, such as by taking time for self-care activities, practicing meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle exercise like yoga. Remember not to shrug off the feeling of being worn out. May just be trying to tell you something important.
Headaches: You know that feeling when you find yourself with a pounding headache for no apparent reason? Well, that may be your body’s way of telling you that you’re dealing with too much stress. When we experience high levels of stress, our bodies tend to tense up, leading to tension headaches – the most common type. Other types of headaches associated with stress include migraines and cluster headaches. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, it might be worth taking a step back and evaluating what’s causing your stress levels to spike. Simply finding ways to relax and unwind could go a long way in preventing future headaches from disrupting your day-to-day life.
Irritability: Irritability is one of the most common signs of stress and can manifest in different ways ranging from feeling overwhelmed to having a short temper. When your body is under stress, your brain releases the hormone cortisol which triggers negative emotions such as anger, frustration and irritability. In other words, when we are stressed, our threshold of tolerance decreases leading us to become more easily irritated than usual. It’s important to recognize these symptoms so that necessary steps can be taken to manage stress before it leads to more serious health problems such as anxiety or depression. Relaxing and indulging in whatever activities you find soothing can help alleviate symptoms associated with stress-related irritability.
Poor Concentration: When we are stressed out, our minds tend to race with thoughts and worries. This can lead to difficulties focusing on tasks at hand. Our brain is like a computer – overloaded processors just cannot work efficiently. If you’ve been finding it hard to focus lately, try taking some time for yourself – take a break, go for a walk, or find a fun activity. These little breaks can help clear your mind and get you back on track with better concentration in the long run.
Sleep Problems: We’ve all been there – tossing and turning in bed, counting sheep, or scrolling through our phones, trying to fall asleep. When we’re stressed, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, elevated levels of cortisol can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, making it harder for us to get the rest our bodies need. Additionally, stressful events such as job loss or relationship troubles can cause anxiety-driven nightmares. If you’re struggling with sleep problems lately, take a moment to reflect on your stress levels, target your specific stress triggers, and work with a therapist to develop a specific plan for positive lifestyle changes. Your body will thank you.
Changes in Appetite: Have you noticed that your appetite changes when you’re feeling stressed? You’re not alone. During times of high stress, many people experience increased cravings for foods high in sugar and fat (comfort foods) while others may lose their desire to eat altogether. Research has also shown that chronic or long-term stress can disrupt our digestive system, leading to changes in gut bacteria, inflammation, and nutrient absorption. If you notice a sudden shift in your food intake or cravings, it may be worth considering how your current state of mind is affecting your body’s needs. Even when stressed, it’s important to try to maintain a healthy diet by incorporating nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which will ensure your body is getting the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to cope with stress.
Loss of Interests: When life gets overwhelming, our brains may prioritize survival and basic needs over leisurely pursuits. We might also feel disconnected or drained from the constant demands of daily life. This can lead to apathy or disinterest in hobbies, friendships, or even work. While it’s important to take time for self-care and prioritize rest, it’s also worth examining whether there are underlying stressors that need addressing. Seeking support from a therapist can help you identify sources of stress and develop coping strategies to rekindle your passion for the activities you once loved.
Written by Lauren Presutti