Are you stressed? In these times, “stressed” has become one of those obvious words – something we all are pretty sure we suffer from but aren’t sure to what degree, or how to quantify it. Most of us are under more strain than we actually know.
We have gathered some signs that indicate low levels of burnout or high levels of stress. We have organized them into categories, and within those categories is a list of ways the stress can manifest itself. Check them out and see if you need to make some adjustments to handle being overstressed.
Tossing and turning a lot? Half of the adults who took part in a stress survey said they felt sluggish in the morning and 43 percent said they couldn’t fall asleep because of stress. Stress can also lead to insomnia, which means you don’t sleep at all, not just a few hours a night. Stress increases the chance of insomnia by 19 percent, according to a study published in the journal SLEEP. When you’re worried, your nervous system doesn’t shut down, you can’t sleep, and your brain stays hyperactive with no chance of resting.
Strange dreams, or even the same ones every night, can be a symptom of stress. They make you feel anxious and on edge. If you normally don’t dream (or don’t remember your dreams) and now all of a sudden it’s the opposite, go back and think what’s changed in your life and if there is anything that adds even a little stress to your day. It could be the trigger.
Too Much Sleep
Stress causes the release of adrenaline in your body after which you just want to sleep. But it won’t be a pleasant nap because you’ll likely wake up often, have bad dreams, or will wake up feeling tired and annoyed. If you are constantly in fight or flight mode, you are experiencing chronic anxiety, which can possibly lead to depression and more sleeplessness.
What Can You Do?
You can improve your sleep by meditating, exercising, and eating a healthy diet, but you should also look at your everyday routines to see if you’re overtaxing yourself.
Hair, Oral, and Nail Concerns:
Research shows that undergoing extreme stress can change your physiological functions to the extent that too many of your hairs go into the “resting phase” at once. This may cause you to lose up to double the usual amount of hair around 3-4 months after the onset of stress. If your doctor can’t find a purely physical cause for your unexpected hair loss, it could be that you’ve been overstressed for ages without ever really acknowledging it.
Spots on Nails
Calcium deficiency? Maybe. This symptom also means your body is lacking zinc, which is very important for the production of hormones. That mineral is quickly used up when you’re stressed; hence the white spots on your nails. Nuts, fish, cheddar cheese, pumpkin and sunflower seeds have a lot of this mineral, so eat up.
Ragged cuticles are most often a result of the (unrealized) habit of biting your nails induced by stress. You’re looking at your nails, aren’t’ you? Good. If your cuticles are in bad shape because you’ve been taking it on them, think about getting a stress ball instead.
Cracked Lips/Sore Mouth
This is a classic Vitamin B deficient symptom. It is necessary for extracting energy from the carbs, protein, and fat we consume every day. Because we use a lot of energy when we are stressed, most of this precious vitamin is gone. B6 plays a key role in our bodies producing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (the “happy” hormones”) responsible for our mood, and melatonin, which controls sleep.
You need magnesium. Stress is, again, to blame for using most of it when the body is responding to a tense situation. Eating sugar also uses a lot of magnesium (it takes 54 molecules of magnesium to process 1 molecule of sugar). Magnesium is also called the “calming mineral” because it affects the way muscles (including in the digestive tract) and the brain can relax during stress.
Consider what you’ve been eating lately, why you’ve been eating it, and what food means to you. Are you either forgetting to eat (and losing weight) or eating too much? When your appetite changes, this is an indication that something emotional has been changing for you as well.
Feeling the butterflies? Your nervous system is tightly linked to your digestive system. Stress can ruin the latter. That uneasiness you feel in your belly can be more than what you just ate, especially if it happens often. You can take over-the-counter pills, but the best natural way to deal with this symptom is to exercise.
You Are In Pain:
Your Whole Body Feels Sore
When there’s too much tension in your mind, it’ll manifest itself in your body in several ways including pain and stiffness in your back, neck, hips, and shoulders, headaches, a clenched jaw, and more.
“When the brain senses a threat, it activates the sympathetic nervous system and signals the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that prime the body for action,” shares Melinda Beck, a health contributor for The Wall Street Journal. “Together, they make the muscles tense up, the digestive tract slows down, blood vessels constrict and the heart beats faster.”
When your body has this reaction unnecessarily, your muscles will remain contracted for a prolonged period of time (hence all those knots in your upper back).
The fight-or-flight response your body has to stress increases your blood pressure, speeds up your heart rate, and tightens the muscles, which can be very painful. Move as much as you can. If you have a desk job, get up every half an hour or so to stretch and walk around.
Lack of Focus & Concentration:
Can’t Focus Enough To Actually Be Productive
It’s time to get down to it, but you just can’t seem to make any progress (or even get started). Countless thoughts are bouncing around inside your head at lightning speed, and you have no idea how to control them. And so begins the vicious cycle – you’re overwhelmed because you’ve got a lot to do, but you’re fretting about it so much that you can’t accomplish anything.
You can blame this frustrating situation on your body’s response to regular anxiety, which is really helpful when you need survival mode to kick in, but not so helpful when it’s impairing your concentration.
Forgetting to lack the front door can be much more than a silly accident. ”Stress, anxiety can result in a decrease in concentration that can cause forgetfulness,” says Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., president & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and chair of the Section of Psychiatry at the Academy. “If a person has memory disturbances that affect their level of functioning, they should seek medical advice,” he adds.
Ongoing stress can shrink the size of the hippocampus, which is the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. It will go back to normal once the stress has gone away. The best way to fight this symptom is – you guessed it – exercise.
You can’t avoid feeling this way all the time. It’s part of life, and sometimes very important. But when it’s long-term, the effects can be harmful. So, while you can’t eliminate it completely, you can prevent it from spinning out of control and taking over your life. The first step? Being aware of your behavior and how you feel.
Then, figure out the best way to manage your to-do list. Remember to take (frequent) breaks, disconnect fully on a regular basis, and when you need to, ask for help. Learning how to successfully manage stress is key to a happy and healthy life. So, go on, conquer it! It’ll pay off big time.