As vague as it may seem, stress is a major contributor to many, if not all, of our ailments. Although stress in its most common context is primarily a psychological phenomenon, it is also closely tied to most aspects of the physiological functioning of our bodies, so whenever we feel stressed out for prolonged periods of time, our immune system suffers and the risk of getting sick or acquiring pain in some parts of the body is significantly increased.
Stress is a normal part of human life and there’s no denying that. As much as we strive to make our lives stress-free, there will always be challenging situations and overwhelming experiences that we simply can’t control and which cauoverstressedse our body to react by producing stress hormones in order to prepare us for coping with the situation in the most effective way. In this way, stress is an evolutionary mechanism whose primary function is to optimize our interactions with the environment and adapt to it better, and in many occasions, literally keep us alive. In ancient times, our ancestors felt stressed out while facing an imminent danger, and the increased flow of stress hormones helped prepare them both mentally and physically for fighting or running away from their perceived source of stress.
Nowadays, however, we are very rarely exposed to the kind of dangerous situations which made up a big part of the life of our ancestors, and generally speaking, our lives are much more comfortable than they used to be many centuries ago. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we are less prone to stress; in fact, the opposite might be true. The main difference is that the type of stress we’re used to experiencing today is most often of an emotional nature, meaning that it usually doesn’t endanger our lives in a direct, real way, but still causes a certain degree of emotional suffering. And the problem is: our bodies don’t know that. Whenever you’re under stress because your boss yelled at you, your body reacts in the same way as if there was a hungry lion in front of you.
So why is this problematic? Stress was originally designed to last for shorter periods of time, i.e. for as long as we needed to deal with the frightening or confusing situation. Today, however, we are increasingly prone to experiencing prolonged periods of stress, which have the ability to cause great damage to our health and psychological well-being. Prolonged stress, also known as chronic stress, causes the body to maintain constantly elevated levels of stress hormones in the body, which has a negative impact on most bodily systems and functions. Although life can be really challenging at times, we tend to make our problems even bigger by worrying too much. And what’s worse, when stress becomes a fixed part of our daily lives, we might get so used to it as to stop noticing that we are constantly tensed, while our health continues to deteriorate – this happens to more people than you think.
If you have a reason to believe that you are one of them, check out these 9 signs that you are overstressed without even knowing it, and then make the first necessary steps to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your health and well-being.
Start listening to your own body. Do you often experience digestive issues, diarrhea, ulcers, muscular tension, inexplicable pain or palpitations? When your stress levels are skyrocketing, all that tension takes its toll on the body and can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms. Therefore, you need to build up your awareness of your body and any type of dysfunction that might be bothering it and address it as soon as possible. Take a moment to discover where the pain is coming from, or at least to acknowledge that your shoulder or neck muscles are constantly tense. Never forget that awareness and acceptance are the most crucial steps towards change, so practice them regularly. Also, visit your doctor and do the necessary tests to make sure that your symptoms aren’t rooted in an underlying serious issue.
#2. Sleeping and eating disorders
In this country, so many people are suffering from insomnia that we don’t really consider it as a serious issue anymore – we simply see it as a typical by-product of modern life. However, insomnia (not sleeping enough) and hypersomnia (sleeping too much) represent significant disorders of the sleeping pattern and are both considered to have negative influence on many aspects of human well-being. And stress has a powerful ability to affect your sleep. When you’re chronically stressed, you could be completely exhausted and still struggling to fall asleep or get a sufficient amount of good quality sleep, or you could be sleeping more than 12 hours and still feel pretty beaten up. Create a way to relax yourself before going to bed, be it through meditation, exercise or soaking in a hot bath and try to clear your mind of any worries and negative thoughts.
On the other hand, you should also know that stress can significantly slow down your metabolic rate, thereby making you more susceptible to weight gain, even though some people experience difficulties maintain a healthy weight throughout their whole life and it’s safe to assume that not every issue of this type comes from elevated stress levels. Monitor your appetite closely. How often do you forget to eat? How often do you find comfort in food and end up overeating? Get your diet in check and make sure to eat healthy, whole foods as much as possible, spread more or less evenly throughout the day. If you don’t eat regularly or eat only junk food, your body won’t have the energy needed to stay focus and perform all daily tasks efficiently and your health will be less than optimal. Find the time to eat real meals regularly.
#3. Automatic negative thoughts
Become aware of your thoughts. Which kind of thoughts come to your mind most often? Are they attached to feelings of anxiety more often than not? If you’re one of those people who take their work home every day or are constantly worried about finances, stress could be having a hold of your life. If it’s hard for you to shut down your problems for a while and find inner balance, you need to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you don’t have health, you won’t be able to enjoy anything else. Don’t let yourself become a hostage of stress and anxiety. You can break the cycle by adopting new, healthier habits, focusing on your accomplishments and dreams instead of your problems, as well as making sure to take some time just for yourself every single day. Do things that you enjoy, spend more time in nature and surround yourself with people with an optimistic mindset.
#4. Difficulty calming down and sitting still
If you’re not able to sit still for longer periods of time, whether it is being alone with your thoughts, taking a walk by yourself or sit in your doctor’s waiting room (without constantly checking your phone), this might be a sign that you’re overstressed. When anxiety is constant and overwhelming, the ability of the mind to relax is reduced and it can create somewhat of a protective barrier between you and the disturbing thoughts.