If you’ve ever been through a time in your life in which you were constantly stressed out, you probably felt less and less like “yourself” each day, and more like a worn out shell of a human. While you may have thought “This stress is killing me,” you most likely persevered through the tough times without really doing anything to alleviate your pains. However, doing so only prolongs and exacerbates the issue at hand, and causes long-lasting detrimental effects to your body if left unchecked. Know the signs of stress before it overtakes you completely.

1. You’re exhausted

If you have trouble getting out of bed everyday, despite getting a full night’s rest, you’re probably clinically exhausted. Jane Pernotto Ehrman, M. Ed., a behavioral health specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, reports, “Stress is an energy-drainer, because it secretly sends all of your body systems into overdrive.” Since your body feels like it’s working overtime, even getting a good night’s sleep is not enough to recharge it for the following day. Take action to reduce the stress in your life. Your body will thank you.

2. You can’t sleep

Ironically, despite being incredibly exhausted at all times, when you’re stressed out it becomes increasingly more difficult to actually fall sleep. Stress-related insomnia stems from not being able to stop thinking about all your obligations in life, combined with the fact that your body is still in “overdrive mode” regardless of what time it is. And, of course, since you can’t sleep, you’ll be even more exhausted the following day, which will only serve to increase your stress load.

3. You’re always sick

Obviously, if you’re having trouble sleeping, sickness will follow shortly after insomnia has taken hold. Since your body has been working overtime during this stressful period, it hasn’t had any time to actually recover from any minor illness or disease that has crept in, and you’ll have a hard time fighting off even the smallest cold. Studies have shown your immune system becomes suppressed by about 30% when you’re stressed out. Taking a “mental health day” is often a euphemism for “skipping work,” but sometimes it needs to be done in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.

4. You’re absent-minded

When you’re stressed out, it’s most likely because you have too much on your plate at once. With major work and life responsibilities looming over your head, it’s tough to keep track of all the little things. If you find yourself at a point in which you can’t remember where you put your keys or you’re forgetting appointments and meetings regularly, you’re most likely stressed almost to your breaking point. Don’t let it go farther without seeking help.

5. You have chronic head and body aches

As I said before, your body puts itself into hyper mode when you’re stressed out. This fatigue not only affects your focus and attention, but also puts a physical strain on your body. Your body has a natural “fight or flight” mechanism which stemmed from the early days of humanity in which we had to actually dodge predators on a normal basis. Nowadays, though we don’t have to worry about lions and bears coming out of nowhere to attack us, our body reacts the same way to recurring stress accrued from work and other parts of life. Why do you think getting a shoulder rub feels so great after a long day? Because your body’s been tense for the past eight hours dealing with all the garbage you’ve had to deal with.

6. You’ve become indifferent sexually

When you’re stressed out and have a ton of issues on your mind, your sex drive is likely to decrease. You might be frustrated about it and wish you could do something about it, but when the opportunity arises, you’ll find yourself not being able to focus, or not being in the mood at all. Try to relieve stress by exercising often.

7. You’ve become overly emotional

Lucie Hemmen, Ph.D, a psychologist in Santa Cruz, CA explains, “When you’re super-stressed, the brain stem — the primitive part of your brain — takes over, and the part that anticipates outcomes goes dark.” This explains why being stressed will cause you to literally cry over spilled milk, or fly into a rage if someone honks their horn at you. Remember when you were a kid and would stay up way too late, and catch a case of the giggles? Same concept. Your body was so stressed out from exhaustion that even the slightest thing set you off, albeit in a silly way. When you’re an adult, and your stress causes you to flip someone off for bumping into you on the subway, it’s not so funny.

8. You have digestive issues

I can’t stress enough how being under too much pressure can lead to physical discomfort. That feeling of nausea you get when you pull into your office’s parking lot is a direct response to the stress you’re already feeling about the day ahead of you. But it’s not as simple as a quick rumble in your stomach. It could cause problems with your digestive system that could lead to vomiting or other issues.

9. You feel light-headed and dizzy

Everyone knows to take deep breaths and try to relax when they’re feeling stressed, right? This acts as a reminder to breathe when you feel yourself starting to panic. When instinct kicks in, you actually deprive yourself of oxygen with each short breath you take, leading to dizziness and “the shakes,” which could lead to a loss of consciousness. Don’t “hold it in” when stress hits you hard. Do your best to weather the storm before you cause even more damage to your body and mind.

10. You resort to coping mechanisms

After a hard day’s work, you might want to just go home and grab a bottle of beer from the fridge while you catch up on some TV. While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two after you’ve come home and relaxed for a while, there’s definitely a problem with drinking in order to relax. Chances are you’ll wake up the next morning with an even higher level of stress than you went to bed with. If you find you’re relying on drugs or alcohol more and more in order to alleviate stress, you should seek help immediately.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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