Seven Warning Signs Of Stress You Should Know

Updated November 30, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The American Psychological Association describes stress as “a normal reaction to everyday pressures.” However, the esteemed outlet also notes that stress can become unhealthy — or even turn into chronic stress — when the operations of your daily life are adversely impacted.

In mainstream society, stress generally gets a bad rap; in many circumstances, this negative perception of stress is justifiable. Left unchecked, stress has the potential to become chronic stress. Chronic stress can contribute to or worsen serious mental, emotional, and even physical health problems.

For these reasons, knowing the warning signs of stress in addition to other relevant information can be invaluable.

Noticing The Warning Signs Of Stress?

Why Is Stress So Dangerous?

Stress levels can inherently vary day to day, as can the potential consequences of stress. Nevertheless, stress, in and of itself, is dangerous due to the impacts it can have on our mental and physical health. If and when you find yourself feeling consistently stressed out, this is indicative of a problem. Taking the necessary steps to nip stress in the bud lessens your likelihood of dealing with its adverse effects later.

It Negatively Impacts Your Brain

One of the greatest dangers of stress is the negative impacts that it can have on the human brain. According to Yale scientists, ongoing stress kills neurons over time and produces hormones that enable depression, inhibit memory abilities, and complicate the learning process. They also found that chronic stress suppresses multiple genes that are needed for forming synaptic connections between cells; this means that, over time, chronic stress can actually shrink the brain. Needless to say, a brain compromised by stress will likely have harmful effects on your day-to-day life and functionality.

Your Emotions Take A Hit

Some of the greatest emotional stress symptoms include anxiety, anger, irritation, depression, and more. If you are someone who already struggles with mental health issues, then stress can notably impact your emotional state. Over time, emotions that have become contaminated by stress will affect how you move through the world, make decisions, and interact with others.

It Detracts From The Joys Of Life

Similar to the adverse physical, mental, and emotional impacts engendered by stress, stress also detracts from the joys of life.

Life has so much to offer each of us. There are countless possibilities and opportunities that are available for many people to make the most of. However, a sound mind and overall good health greatly aid in the ability to reap the benefits of life’s joys. The presence of continued, ongoing stress ultimately interferes with the many positive impacts of life and can prevent us from seeing the good things or taking potential opportunities.

Top Leading Stress Signs You Need To Know

The plethora of dangers from stress are well-established and documented. With that in mind, it’s important to know that stress doesn’t usually happen overnight. In most cases, stress takes time to develop and turn into chronic stress.

Having knowledge of the seven leading warning signs of stress can aid you in both preventing stress and learning stress management strategies.

1. Strained Relations With Other People

To date, a deterioration in your quality of interpersonal relationships is one warning sign of stress. Unfortunately, this particular stress symptom tends to go unnoticed.

It can be easy to write off situations like avoidance of others and communication struggles as no big deal. However, these are actually potentially serious indicators of emerging or present stress. Stress management is deeply imperative before stress becomes chronic and especially when your interpersonal relationships start to suffer.

2. Out-Of-Character Behavior

As human beings, our behaviors can tell us a good deal about ourselves and our mental state. When determining whether or not you may be on the cusp of stress or chronic stress, ask yourself if any of your behaviors have been out-of-character lately.

When your negative behavior shifts or changes from what is typical of you, such as increased irritability, feeling overwhelmed, and avoiding loved ones, for example, it can be a sign that stress is either present or on the horizon. Taking a step back, pausing, and determining the source of stress is always advisable. Ideally, you’ll also want to develop healthy stress management techniques; this can help prevent the situation from getting any worse.

3. Consistently Negative Emotions

No one is happy or in good spirits all of the time. That being said, if you find yourself constantly feeling stressed, irritable, on edge, or otherwise unhappy, this is one of the leading warning signs of stress. The emotional impacts of stress are well-documented, but this type of harm doesn’t happen overnight. Being mindful of how you are feeling more often than not is highly advisable; your emotions can tell you a lot about yourself, including how you’re doing and reacting to the outside world around you.

4. Trouble With Sleeping

Because of the impact that stress can have on your mental health, one of the most critical signs to be aware of is trouble with sleeping. If left unchecked, problems with getting a good night’s rest can become even more threatening when stress turns into chronic stress.

The necessary health benefits of sleep are very well-documented. While trouble with sleeping is a warning sign of stress, it also carries the potential to worsen existing problems. A lack of proper rest can impair your judgment, place a strain on your interpersonal relationships, damage your physical and mental health, and even complicate the brain’s ability to processing information. If you’re struggling with sleep, take this as a serious indicator of necessary change.

5. Concerns From Those Closest To You

If other people around you are letting you know that you seem tense or otherwise not like yourself, this can be a warning sign of stress. Of course, stress levels can vary, but sometimes, people who are closest to you can notice that something’s wrong before you do.

Feedback from other people is not always accurate, though, and at the end of the day, it’s up to you to be in tune with how you’re doing. However, if other people are consistently concerned or worried about you, this is something to be mindful of. Stress symptoms are plentiful, and you might be exhibiting symptoms without even realizing it, such as fidgeting often, coming across as short or irritable, eating notably more or less than usual, and so on.

6. Lack Of Interest In Hobbies Or Activities

Hobbies and recreational activities are critical parts of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. If you find that your interest in these pursuits is declining, this is an important warning sign of stress. Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that you typically enjoy can be indicative of chronic stress or even depression.

Hobbies and activities are important, but a healthy state of mind and wellbeing are necessary to reap the benefits. If you’re concerned about whether or not you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself when you last spent time on a hobby or leisurely endeavor.

7. Lack Of Overall Energy

Stress is inherently draining, and chronic stress is even worse. If you find yourself constantly lacking energy or feeling sluggish, this is an important stress symptom to be aware of. No one is always upbeat or energetic and one bad day doesn’t mean that you’re on the cusp of stress. However, when you are consistently feeling strained or depleted day in and day out, this means there’s an issue.

As troubling as this may seem, nipping stress in the bud now can save you from dealing with even worse issues later down the line. It’s important to not only recognize stress symptoms but to also develop constructive stress management techniques.

Noticing The Warning Signs Of Stress?

Changing Your Life With Stress Management Techniques

The National Institutes of Health explains the adverse impacts that stress can have on the lives of afflicted persons. Thankfully, stress management techniques can help you healthily deal with stress and achieve a higher quality of mental health.

  • Relaxation

As simple as it may sound, relaxation can be an extremely effective stress management technique. From deep breathing to meditating or practicing yoga, learning to hit the pause button when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed is a valuable skill to learn. Knowing the warning signs of stress and taking the necessary actions is what can help shield you from chronic stress and its short and long-term effects.

  • Removal From Sources Of Stress

Sometimes, removing yourself from the source of stress is the best management technique of all. This may not always be possible, but when you can eliminate sources of stress in your life, doing so is highly advisable. If you are stressed from politics, take a break from the news and social media, for example.

  • Support From BetterHelp

Dealing with the warning signs of stress, stress itself, and learning and practicing stress management takes time and patience. Thankfully, these aren’t issues that you have to take on by yourself. 

To date, online therapy has changed countless lives and it can change your life also. When you work with a BetterHelp online therapist, you can count on getting help, support, and advice that specifically pertains to your needs and preferences. Online therapy won’t make your problems vanish overnight; however, this process can help you learn more about yourself and develop productive ways of overcoming life’s challenges. Additionally, online therapy sessions can be held anywhere you have an internet connection, including your home. 

Online therapy is overall just as effect as in-person therapy for treating and managing a variety of conditions and concerns. A 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine explored the use of online therapy for reducing and managing stress and its effects. They found that online cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for treating a variety of stress disorders, while also circumventing the unique barriers and risks of receiving in-person care in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Stress isn’t always bad; it can serve as a valuable indicator that something is wrong and needs to change (such as an unhealthy work environment), or that something needs doing (such as paying your bills). However, when experienced regularly, stress can become chronic and interfere with day-to-day life as well as our mental and physical health. The seven primary warning signs of chronic stress are strained relationships with other people, displaying out-of-character behavior, feeling negative emotions consistently, trouble sleeping, those close to you expressing concerns about your behaviors and/or health, a lack of interest in normally enjoyed hobbies and activities, and an overall lack of energy. However, there are things that you can do to minimize stress and get back to feeling like yourself again. If you feel you could benefit from some outside help, online therapy is available whenever you’re ready to take the first step.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started