Stress is a feeling we all know a little too well these days. Thankfully, with the help of healthy coping mechanisms and self-care, most of us can keep it under control. But how do we know when manageable stress crosses the line and this is no longer the case?
As stressors pile up from work, family, and the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Suddenly, your coping mechanisms become too difficult to implement, and you are left as a shell of your former self. The stress becomes so engrained you can not even tell that it has gotten out of control. But how do you see this pattern coming?
There are a few signs to look for to know when your stress levels are skyrocketing. Look at the list below and see if any of it sounds familiar. If it does, it may be time to revamp your self-care routine or find a professional to speak to learn other tools.
Signs From Your Physical Body
Our bodies are a compass. They clue us into how we are doing. They let us know if we are sick, stressed, or happy!
Sleep - Your sleep schedule being disrupted for no clear reason can indicate that your stress levels are too high. With cortisol, the stress hormone, coursing through your system, you are likely to have extra energy that can keep you up at night. On the inverse, once it is used up, you crash. If you find yourself staying up late or sleeping too much, your stress could be out of control.
Tension - If you are feeling pain in your muscles, head, chest, or stomach, this could be a result of stress. When you are in distress, your muscles tend to tense up and create discomfort. Over time, this can cause headaches, backaches, and stomachaches.
Heart Rate Change - When stressed, you are put into fight-or-flight mode. This releases cortisol and adrenaline, making your heart pump faster. This can trigger anxiety and high blood pressure. If you notice your heart racing when there isn’t an obvious high-risk trigger, that could be a sign of something going on underneath the surface.
Digestive Problems - Stress affects how quickly food moves through your digestive system and how many nutrients we are able to absorb. If you have bowel issues like constipation or diarrhea, your body is trying to send you a signal.
Signs From Your Mental and Emotional Bodies
Just like your physical body clues you into your heightened stress levels, your brain does too. A plethora of mental health triggers could indicate that it’s time for you to take a breath and work out some of the tension in your life.
Worry and overwhelm - One of the first indications of increased stress is feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried. This can present itself in many ways, including racing thoughts or obsessing about the future. If you feel like too much is happening around you, you might be overwhelmed with the stimulus in your life, even if they are common things that you usually deal well with.
Depression - Depression is a key indicator of chronic or acute stress. It presents differently for different people. It can feel numb and sad. It may bring on fatigue or make you feel disinterested in the world around you.
Shutting Down - Shutting down happens when our body and brain decide there is just too much happening for us to focus on. It typically comes with fatigue and feels like you are not “in your body”. You may feel unmotivated, confused or unfocused as a result.
Impulse Control - Another sign that your stress is out of control is when you stop caring about your decisions. This can create a ton of turmoil in your life and lead to even more stress down the road. If you find that you are making atypical decisions, take a pause and start working on feeling safe.
Overall, stress can really impact your life. You may feel disconnected and out of control when you are too stressed. Looking at the signs of stress and how they reflect in your life is crucial. In addition, knowing how you specifically react to stress helps protect your energy and guide yourself through difficult times.
To practice getting to know yourself, you can write in a journal or find a coach or therapist to give you perspective on the situation. Stress can be incredibly difficult to deal with, but it does not last forever, and believe it or not, with the right tools for you, it can be changed quickly!