At some point, all of us experience some level of stress. Stress is normal, but left unattended, it can have lasting effects on the body and show up in ways we never knew were related.
While many people are familiar with how stress impacts our cognitive and emotional well-being, physical symptoms are often treated as separate entities. People don’t associate physical symptoms as signs of stress as much as they do mental and emotional symptoms.
But the truth is: stress often shows up in the body.
Here are a few common ways in which stress can manifest itself in the physical form.
15 Short-Term Symptoms of Stress
Stress in short bouts can lead to short-term symptoms of stress. Knowing these symptoms can aid you in dealing with your stress when it first begins as a means to lessen the likelihood of experiencing long-term or chronic effects. Becoming aware of your body by doing daily check-ins can reduce the risk of worsening symptoms.
- Lack of energy
- Migraines or headaches
- Issues with digestion and bowel movements
- Tense muscles
- Body aches
- Inability to sleep
- Quickened heart rate and discomfort in the chest
- Increase in cold and flu occurrences
- Lack of desire or sexual interest
- Cold or sweaty palms and feet
- Feeling anxious or nervous
- Ringing in the ears
- Dry mouth
- Clenched jaw or grinding of the teeth
Related: 8 Unconscious Signs of Stress (& How To Respond to Them)
11 Long-Term Symptoms of Stress
While most of us are able to find measures of self-care as a way to recover from short-term stressful periods in our lives, sometimes consistent stress is hard to avoid. The daily demands of our educational endeavors, careers, finances, and family can create a repetitive background strain within our lives.
In these instances, where relief is unattainable, long-term effects begin to take place. Long-term symptoms of stress include the following.
- Flair ups in muscular concerns such as arthritis due to inflammation
- Increase risk for heart disease in combination with blood pressure and cholesterol concerns
- Worsened skin conditions such as eczema or acne due to hormonal changes in the body
- Hair loss that can sometimes add to feelings of stress due to insecurity or increased worry
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive tract issues such as heartburn gas, bloating, and diarrhea
- The development of TMJ due to nightly clenching of the jaw and/or grinding of the teeth
- A weakened immune system which can lead to more frequent bouts of the flu
- Increased symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Irregular menstruation cycles that are heavier, lighter, or nonexistent
- Erectile dysfunction and lowered sperm count
- Undesired weight loss or gain
As you can see, stress and the associated results are no light matter. That said, it is important to consider ways in which to alleviate stress within your life.
5 Ways to Reduce Short-Term & Long-Term Stress
It is easy to see why the goal of so many is to reduce levels of stress. Not sure where to start?
- Begin by knowing your emotional triggers so you can stop stress before it begins. One way to do this is by keeping a journal where you are able to track when stress is arising and note the cause. Once you are aware of your triggers, you can find ways to avoid, manage, or eliminate them.
- Remember to make time for self-care or hobbies that you enjoy as this can greatly reduce your levels of stress. Allowing for down-time can give you the willpower that you need to face stress with new vigor. Massage, Reiki, acupuncture, creative expression, and hypnosis are just a few examples of ways to decompress.
- Do not be afraid to reach out to your support network. Often, when we are struggling or under immense amounts of stress, it can be hard to reach out to those we need validation, empathy, and encouragement from. During these times, it is important to remember that everyone suffers and needs a little help sometimes. If you feel like you cannot speak to loved ones about your current stressors, consider seeking out a therapist who can help.
- Get outside, get good sleep, and eat healthy. It is easy to forget how much things like sleep, fresh air and diet can affect our well-being, but they play a huge role in our emotional, cognitive, and physical functioning. Getting the right amount of consistent sleep, sunshine, and the right kinds of nutrients can lessen stress and increase resiliency.
- Exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking can act as a great way to add those happiness inducing chemicals your brain needs to get by, not to mention stress reduction, better sleep, and mental clarity. Not your cup of tea? Consider fun and unique activities such as jet-skiing, horse riding, fencing, rock climbing, group cycling, dance classes, or kayaking. Or, slip in a few simple yoga stretches. Who says exercising has to feel like work? Furthermore, if you are feeling short on time, you can always engage in breathing exercises, try meditation, or take a hot bath.
At the end of the day, remember that you are not alone. If things begin to feel too heavy to carry on your own, Loving Life is here for you.
If you are dealing with symptoms of stress — whether they show up in short bursts or long-term episodes — help is available. A trained therapist can work with you to identify the areas that are bringing you stress, help you resolve them, and give you tools to decrease your stress when it pops up.
See if therapy and counseling can help you offload your symptoms of stress and get back to living a happier, healthier life. Download our free Counseling Info Packet and get $25 off your first appointment at Loving Life Today (for in-person or virtual sessions).