Most of us experience stress. Over two-thirds of American adults feel that their stress levels have increased over the last year. Some signs of stress are very obvious, and then there are some not-so-obvious signs. Sometimes we let our stress go unchecked and believe it to be under control. However, it’s critical not to ignore these subtle signs that you are stressed out.
Stress affects how we think and process information, including how we make decisions. No matter how you make decisions, be it more intuitive, analytical, or somewhere in the middle, that is your tried-and-true decision-making style. If it works for you, you usually stick by it. However, if you feel yourself questioning how you make decisions, continuously switching up your style, or even avoiding making decisions, you could be stressed out. Stress can also cause us to look for only positive outcomes rather than any negative consequences that could arise out of our choices. This could lead to poor decisions, an endless cycle of self-doubt, and more bad choices.
Self-awareness is key for this one. Discovering your decision-making style as well as your stressors can help you manage your daily stress and you can learn to start trusting yourself again.
When we are stressed, we tend to be a little more tense than usual. A constant flex of certain muscle groups can cause sore muscles. Why do we tense up when we are stressed out? This seems to be the body’s natural response as if to protect you from oncoming injury. The problem is, if you never relax, those muscles stay tense, and at the end of the day, you could be feeling exhausted and sore.
To remedy this, take a few minutes every hour or so to stretch, get hydrated and focus on your muscles relaxing. We sometimes tense up without even realizing it, so keep this in mind when you’re working or at home. Stand up, reach for those toes, reach up to the sky, shake it out.
Did you know stress can affect your mouth? Just like with your sore muscles, stress can lead you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth. If you are experiencing jaw pain or frequent headaches, you could be clenching your jaw without noticing. Take a moment to relax all of the muscles in your face. You may look a little silly doing this, but your jaw will thank you later. However, be sure to keep note if you wake up with jaw pain, as this could be a sign of nighttime bruxism. Consult your doctor or dentist to take the proper precautions to protect your teeth.
It is pretty common to have our stomachs disagree with us every once in a while, but if you’re noticing a pattern of frequency, then this could be a sign of stress. Stress can have a significant impact on your digestion. When you experience stress, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. This constant feeling of flight or fight puts pressure on your nervous system which has a significant influence over your digestive system. Long-term side effects of stress on your digestion could lead to more serious ailments, such as ulcers.
Waking up exhausted, having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, having bizarre dreams or nightmares? You could have some significant stress in your life that is causing you to have sleep problems. We’ve all experienced an event that has given us a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. But sometimes the day-to-day stresses that we keep on the back burner have a way of creeping up into our subconscious and keep us from getting a night of restful sleep. One of the side effects of sleep deprivation is feeling more irritable and snappy and sometimes to the point where coffee can’t boost our mood anymore. It’s important to keep your stress in check because your irritability can have serious impacts on your work and interpersonal relationships.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you should always speak to your doctor first, as some of these could be signs of other underlying issues. Find safe and healthy ways of managing your stress by evaluating what is causing stress in your life and how to address it positively.