As we reach the end of 2020, many of us are dealing with unprecedented stress levels. This tension can manifest in a variety of ways. You may be feeling tense, anxious, restless, or even angry. During International Stress Awareness Week, we want to help you identify the physical, mental, and behavioral signs of stress.
Physical Signs of Stress
Many people think of stress as a mental condition. However, it has a significant physical component. In addition to creating physical symptoms, long-term tension can increase your risk of other health problems later in life, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Chronic stress can wear down your body’s natural defenses, which can lead to the following physical symptoms.
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
- Feeling “out of it” or dizzy
- Frequent colds, infections, or other health problems
- Indigestion, heartburn, or appetite changes
- Chronic headaches
- Upset stomach and diarrhea
- Muscle tension, especially in the face, neck, and shoulders
- Sleep problems, fatigue, and exhaustion
- Racing heart
- Panic attacks
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight loss or gain
- Trembling or shaking
Stress can also wreak havoc on your mood. If your emotional well-being is impacted by this constant strain, it can have severe consequences. Many people affected by chronic stress find themselves unmotivated and unable to focus. This leads to them feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities at home, work, or school. They may lash out at others in a state of irritability or withdraw in a depressive episode. Others might become restless and anxious about their future.
Emotional signs of stress include…
- Racing thoughts
- Low sex drive
- Increased sensitivity to criticism
- Loss of creativity
- Difficulty making decisions
- Memory problems
- Feeling “out of control”
- Negative thinking
- Loss of confidence
- Becoming more accident-prone
- Difficulty concentrating
- Compulsive behavior (habits and addiction)
- Severe mood swings
Treatment and Restorative Efforts
If you or someone you love are feeling the effects of stress, take comfort in the wide array of treatments available. The American Institute of Stress has compiled a list of stress-reducing techniques – try a few different ones to see what works best for you. While most of these can be done from the comfort of your own home, professional support is also available.
Get moving. Physical activity is a known mood-booster. In addition to releasing feel-good endorphins, running and aerobics can provide an outlet for your frustration.
Practice mindfulness. Meditation can improve your relationship with your emotions. By identifying your feelings and analyzing your thoughts, you may find peace in the midst of a stressful time.
Change things up. Many of us live our lives with several ongoing annoyances. Something as simple as a broken drawer (or as complex as a toxic workplace) can make a huge difference in your mental health. If you’re feeling stressed on an everyday basis, think about the changes you can make in your life to reduce the mental strain you’re feeling. These may take time to implement, but you will reap the rewards for years to come.
Take time to unwind. Relaxing activities like yoga can help you to reduce physical tension and leave the day’s stressors behind. Take some deep breaths and stretch it out for a good night’s sleep.
Put your health first. Poor physical health can lead to worse stress symptoms. For example, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll already be predisposed to start your day off with irritability. However, if you’re exercising, following a proper diet, and adhering to a solid sleep schedule, you’ll be more insulated from the effects of stress.
Seek help. For those in recovery, stress can be a relapse trigger. We encourage you to contact your treatment center, reach out to your sponsor, or talk to loved ones about the things that are troubling you. Often, another person can help you to find solutions and perspective about your problems.
How to Celebrate Stress Awareness Week
Established by the International Stress Management Association, this observance seeks to provide information on stress and its alleviation. This is an opportunity to begin looking after yourself. First, take a look at the various stressors in your life – how many of these can you address? Removing or mitigating that stress is a great way to prioritize your recovery (and your health). Additionally, we recommend that you look over the International Stress Management Association’s resources, many of which are downloadable. You can find a few of our favorites here, here, and here.
Comprehensive Treatment and Long-Term Support
Stress is a fact of life. However, that doesn’t mean it has to take over your mental and physical health. While some stressors are unavoidable, there are others completely within our control. At Lakeside-Milam, we provide ongoing care to those in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. We know that early recovery can be a stressful time, especially during COVID-19. If you are in need of outpatient mental health care or long-term care, please contact us today for more information. We will give you the tools to manage stress and anxiety in your daily life.