Your alarm is going off for the third time, but you can’t seem to get out of bed. Lately, you haven’t been able to sleep through the night and find yourself feeling rundown and sluggish. If you can relate to this scenario — it may be more than a case of the Mondays — you could be experiencing physical symptoms of stress. Scan this checklist for the signs of stress to see if you’re experiencing any of these, and use our simple tips to help you unwind!
- You’re gaining weight
- You’re getting sick more often
- You find yourself mindlessly eating
- You’re low on energy
- You’re experiencing digestion problems
- You’re not sleeping well
Stress doesn’t only affect your brain — it can also manifest itself physically and impact the rest of your body. Common signs of stress and anxiety, like a racing heart or sweaty palms, are natural physical symptoms of stress, according to the American Psychological Association.1 While not all stress is a bad thing (like before a job interview or the start of a 5K race), other types of stress and anxiety can take a toll on your overall health without you even realizing what might be causing them. We breakdown the common signs of stress and how to deal with stress below.
1 You’re gaining weight
Ever notice that your jeans seem to fit a little more snugly when you’re up against a tight deadline at work? You’re not imagining it — stress can cause weight gain for a variety of reasons. One study found that experiencing a stressful event the day before eating even one high-fat meal can slow your metabolism.2,3
How to deal with stress: Focus on making healthy choices throughout the day. Skip the donuts in the office break room and opt for a healthier alternative like an apple. Feeling tense during the work day? Try adding a 10-minute walk to your lunch break to get some fresh air and sneak in some activity.
2 You’re getting sick more often
Even if you practice good habits to avoid getting sick — like washing your hands regularly and avoiding others who are ill — stress can still impact your immune system. Not only can being stressed increase your likelihood of catching a bug,4 but it can also make it harder to bounce back. This is mainly due to your body’s release of the hormone cortisol, which temporarily reduces your normal inflammatory response to viruses and bacteria. Research indicates that chronic stress can make your body less sensitive to the hormone — which may make you more susceptible to illness.5
How to deal with stress: Try meditation: you’ll learn to focus your thoughts to reduce your overall stress. Start small by committing to just five minutes a day – try a guided meditation by watching a video or downloading an app. For more information read our article on how meditation can improve your health.
3 You find yourself mindlessly eating
Zoning out in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream when you’re not hungry can be the result of an old habit, boredom, stress or a combination of the three. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to reach for high-fat, sugar-filled comfort foods that are easy to overeat (again, because of that pesky stress hormone cortisol).6
How to deal with stress: Before fixing yourself a snack or a meal, rate your hunger level. If you’re not truly hungry, try doing something else, such as calling a friend, drinking a glass of water or going for a walk.
4 You’re low on energy
Feeling overwhelmed or just less motivated than usual? Check your stress levels. While constantly being tired can be related to a number of other health concerns, stress can also play a part.7 Research shows stress can be associated with fatigue, which may affect your personal and professional life.7 Women tend to experience this effect more often than men.7
How to deal with stress: Find your happy place. Surrounding yourself with positive energy can help you get yours back, whether that’s through spending time with people you enjoy, or retreating to an environment that makes you feel calm.
5 You’re experiencing digestion problems
You know that old phrase about your stomach being in knots? Stress really can impact your digestion process and it can take different forms, including indigestion, stomachaches, bloating and/or gas.8 Stress can also cause flare-ups in people with irritable bowel syndrome.8
How to deal with stress: Focus on eating nutrient-rich foods that are easy to digest.
6 You’re not sleeping well
Stressful events and major life changes — like divorce, financial problems or the loss of a loved one — can lead to insomnia.9 Less-serious stressors, like worrying about your to-do list, can also cause short-term insomnia for 15-20 percent of adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.10 It has a compounding effect, too, because sleep deprivation may actually make you feel more stressed.
How to deal with stress: Try scheduling a 20-minute power nap during the day to help you recharge. Also, try to reduce your caffeine intake in the afternoon and evenings.
7 You’re always forgetting something
If you find yourself being more absentminded than usual – like forgetting your grocery store list, constantly misplacing your keys, or panicking that you lost your phone again (when it’s in your hand) – it could be a signal that you are overly stressed. One study’s findings indicate that experiencing prolonged spikes in cortisol can lead to memory lapses as we age.11
How to deal with stress: Improve your time management by taking a few things off your to-do list. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to a request if you feel like there is too much on your plate.