Identifying Stress Symptoms and Solutions
By: Margaret Wack
Updated February 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Stress is a common part of everyday life and can happen due to negative life events, pressure at work, or even just typical stressors like money and bills. While everyone experiences stress at some point, there are times when stress can get out of hand and take over your life. If you're feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, it's always a good idea to seek help to make sure that you're as mentally healthy as possible.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a common side effect of any kind of demand placed on the body and mind. Stress can have both mental and physical symptoms, and is incredibly common in people of all ages and backgrounds. While some stress may be beneficial and allow you to overcome obstacles, excessive stress can have a negative impact on your health.
Think you might be suffering from stress? Here are a few symptoms to watch out for:
Fatigue and Lethargy
Fatigue and lethargy are common symptoms of stress. If you struggle to complete basic tasks, or find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, you might be suffering from stress. People often describe these feelings of fatigue as a kind of brain fog, where it can be hard to think clearly or to make decisions. On top of this, people often feel exhausted by the world at large, and find it difficult to work up enthusiasm even for things they once loved to do.
Muscle tension is another common symptom. Even without realizing it, people often tense their muscles when they're stressed. Common spots of tension are the muscles of the face, shoulders, and back. This tension can also manifest in repetitive motions, like fidgeting with your hands or tapping your foot.
Aches and Pains
Like muscle tension, persistent aches and pains are another physical manifestation of mental anxiety. People suffering from stress often feel physically sore and in pain, even when they haven't exercised or otherwise taxed their body. These aches and pains can be exacerbated by any activity or injuries that do occur, making it an especially difficult symptom for those already suffering from chronic pain or illness.
People suffering from stress and anxiety can feel overwhelmed and unable to function. Even when the obstacle before them are easily surmountable, they often feel as if they have too much on their plate, and are unable to successfully complete even simple tasks. While they may occasionally be making mountains out of molehills, the feelings they experience are a very real part of stress and anxiety.
Constant worrying is another symptom of excessive stress. If you find yourself obsessing about the smallest details, and unable to sleep for worry about what the next day might bring, you may be suffering from stress or anxiety. While some amount of worry is normal, especially during naturally stressful situations, this prolonged worry is not typical, and can significantly impair daily functioning.
Those suffering from stress and anxiety often feel like their thoughts are racing ahead of them, and they're unable to slow down. Racing thoughts often dwell on the negative, whether they take the form of worries about things about to happen or anxiety over things that have already passed. People experiencing racing thoughts often feel like they can't get out of their own head or think clearly about other topics.
Feelings of Worthlessness
Another common symptom of stress and anxiety is a pervasive feeling of worthlessness. Those suffering from stress might feel like their lives and accomplishments don't matter, and like nothing they do will have a significant positive impact on the world. People suffering from stress often also have low self-efficacy, and don't believe that anything they achieve will make a difference.
Withdrawing from the World
When you're feeling stressed and anxious, it can be tempting to withdraw from the world. Those suffering from stress often socialize less, and spend less time with friends and family. They also often reduce their commitments and obligations, and spend more time alone at home.
Along with the mental symptoms listed above, headaches are another common symptom of stress. Depending on the individual, these can even develop in debilitating migraines. But even if you're just suffering from an average headache, it can be an unwelcome addition to a host of other negative symptoms of stress.
Changes in Appetite
Stress can also cause changes in appetite. Some people can't stomach food at all, and eat very little, often reporting feelings of decreased hunger and desire for food. On the other end of the spectrum, some people deal with stress by overeating in order to comfort themselves. Whether you're eating too much or too little, disruptions to your normal eating pattern aren't good for your overall health.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Insomnia is a common symptom of stress, and many people suffering from stress and anxiety find it extremely difficult to get a full night's sleep. Lack of sleep can exacerbate many of the other symptoms of stress, making this an especially dangerous side effect. On the other hand, people can also have difficult waking up or getting out of bed, and can sleep an excessive amount when they're dealing with stress.
How to Treat Stress
While stress is sometimes a necessary feature of life, it's never pleasant. The good news is that there are a variety of ways to safely and effectively treat stress. If you're concerned about your mental health, you should always seek out the opinion of a medical professional before embarking upon a new treatment plan. Here are a few tips for treating stress at home or with the help of your doctor:
Mindfulness and meditation have long been linked to beneficial mental and spiritual effects. Studies have shown that mindfulness can be especially effective at curbing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you're feeling stressed out, try cultivating a meditation practice that centers awareness, breathing, and calm.
Exercise is also known for its potent relaxing effects. While it might seem counterintuitive, the stress that exercise places upon the body releases plenty of feel-good endorphins and other chemicals that help fight the negative effects of stress. If you're feeling anxious and overwhelmed, even a twenty or so minutes a day of exercise is enough to reap the benefits of an exercise routine.
A cup of tea is a soothing, natural alternative that has been proven to fight stress and reduce anxiety. Tea made from the camellia sinensis plant contains l-theanine, a chemical compound that promotes calm, clarity, and relaxation. Teas including black, green, white, oolong, purple, and pu-erh all contain l-theanine.
Create an Oasis
If you're feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by life, try creating a little oasis to retreat to within your own home. Even if it's just a little nook in your bedroom or a corner of your house, creating a space in which you can relax and unwind can have a wealth of positive effects. Try decorating the space with comfortable furniture, soothing décor, and items that have positive associations.
Channel Your Feelings
When you're stressed out, it can often feel as if everything is bottled up inside of you with no opportunity to let loose. In order to relieve stress, try exploring a creative outlet such as writing, art, or music. You'll get to learn a new skill and gain the ability to better express your feelings in a healthy and creative way.
Spend Time with Family and Friends
While it might be tempting to withdraw from the world when you're feeling anxious, strong social bonds can actually help you stave off the symptoms of anxiety. A strong social support system is key to mental health treatment and recovery. Even if you're feeling exhausted by social interaction, try spending low-key time with loved ones watching a moving or going for a stroll. Even if it feels like more than you can handle, it's sure to have a positive effect on your mental health!
If you're seriously struggling with stress and anxiety, medication proscribed by a doctor can be a great way to manage your symptoms and take charge of your mental health. Common medical treatments for stress include SSRIs, tranquilizers, and beta-blockers. Everyone's different, so it might take a little time to figure out the medication that works best for you. Medication can also be particularly effective when implemented in concert with other stress-reducing lifestyle changes.
Therapy can be a safe, effective way to manage stress and anxiety. There are a variety of different kinds of therapy, including talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and more. If you're looking for help managing your mental health, or just need somebody to talk to, therapists can help provide an objective perspective, and give advice on how to handle your particular challenges.
Suffering from stress and anxiety? Stress is an incredibly common issue to have, and you're definitely not alone. If you're looking to talk to a qualified therapist about your mental health, BetterHelp has a wealth of options to choose from. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us today to learn about online therapy!
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