Stress takes its toll on our minds and our moods, and there are physical implications too. Many of us exist in a permanent state of stress without even realising it. If you are serious about protecting your health, you’ll want to take notice of those little signs you’ve accepted as normal, before it turns into something serious.
Stress causes surges of hormones in the body and it’s not always a bad thing. It can help you stay focused and enables you to perform under pressure. In fact, stress can literally save you in a life threatening situation. However, prolonged stress can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. Addressing the tell-tale signs of stress may help to prevent a more serious health condition. Whether you are working, a stay at home parent or self-employed, keeping yourself fit and healthy is essential for you to cope with the demands of work and family life.
Developing awareness of how stress is affecting you, gives you the opportunity to do something about it. Always check in with your GP or your health provider if you have any symptoms you are concerned about. Here are some of the tell-tale signs of stress.
- Headaches – tension-type headaches are more likely to occur when you are stressed. Relaxation techniques, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep should help.
- Muscle tension – especially felt in the neck and shoulders, muscle tension is a sure sign of stress. Try relaxation techniques and massage, and request a workstation assessment to make sure you are sitting properly at your desk.
- Upset stomach – the gut is especially sensitive to stress. Our hormones regulate gastric secretions, which play a huge role in the digestion of food and in our appetite.
- Appetite – if you are eating more, or you’ve lost your appetite it could be due to an increase in stress hormones.
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat – while these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious, stress can also cause chest pain and heart palpitations. Always check with your GP to rule out anything more serious.
- Frequent colds and infections – stress weakens our immune system, which is why we are more susceptible to persistent colds or infections in times of stress.
- Low energy – there are many reasons you may be feeling tired. Prolonged stress is draining and could be contributing to your tiredness. Other conditions such as anaemia and hypothyroidism are also common medical causes of excessive tiredness. Always check with your GP to rule out medical causes.
- Insomnia – not all insomnia is caused by stress, but if you are under considerable stress it could be affecting your ability to sleep. It’s important to find time to relax before going to bed, and avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks, especially in the evening.
- Indecisive – if you are finding it difficult to make decisions it could be as a result of stress. Stress causes us to feel overwhelmed and affects clarity of thought.
- Impatient – are you reacting quickly to situations that would normally pass you by? If so, it may be as a result of stress. When things keep piling up they can become overwhelming and cause an angry outburst. Both relaxation and exercise can help.