Everyone experiences stress; it’s a fact of life. A little stress is normal and can be expected, but how do we know when we’ve crossed the line from normal stress levels to unhealthy stress levels?
As an individual who spends about 95% of her time worrying about anything and everything, I consider myself to be something of an expert when it comes to stressing out. Unfortunately, I do not have nearly as much expertise when it comes to coping with the stress which means that I also know a thing or two about the signs and symptoms of dealing with too much stress. Here are a few things you might want to think about:
Is your stress level impacting your sleep?
Are you suffering through night after night of tossing and turning without a wink of sleep? Insomnia is one of the first symptoms that manifests itself in my life when I am experiencing unhealthy levels of stress. If you are so stressed out or worried about something that it’s keeping you up at night then this could be a sign that you are under unhealthy amounts of stress.
Are you self-isolating to cope with stress?
Do you find yourself turning down invitations to do things that you usually enjoy? Are you finding yourself spending more and more time alone as a result of your worries and stress? This could be an early symptom of depression (although not necessarily) and it might be time to force yourself to start saying yes to those invitations even if you really don’t want to. If you’re usually a social person then it could do you some good to get out there and have some fun with friends.
Does your mood fluctuate frequently and rapidly?
Stress can really do a number on your overall emotional state which is why people who are chronically stressed out often experience extreme mood swings. Perhaps your loved ones have noticed that you’re easily angered, frustrated, or saddened. While this could be a sign of a more significant issue such as a mood disorder, it could also be a result of your heightened stress level.
Are you experiencing difficulty concentrating?
Concentration is often one of the first things to suffer when we begin experiencing high levels of stress. We start to spend so much time thinking about the things which are causing us to feel stressed that we have a hard time thinking about anything else. Unfortunately, this could have a negative impact on job performance or academics which could in turn cause more stress which could then further inhibit your ability to concentrate. If this is one of the issues which you are experiencing I would encourage you to speak with your employer or teachers to explain the situation. Mental health is becoming increasingly supported in the workplace and educational environment so this could really help to take off some of the pressure.
Has your weight fluctuated drastically since your stress level increased?
Weight loss and weight gain can happen for many reasons so this is yet another symptom that could be attributed to a secondary issue; however, there is also a correlation between stress levels and weight fluctuations. If you find yourself with an increased or decreased appetite as a result of your stress, this could be a sign that you have crossed the line to unhealthy stress levels. Conversely, it is important to note that food consumption (or lack thereof) can be used by some people as a means of coping which can result in disordered eating. If you are experiencing this I encourage you to seek help immediately.
While these certainly are not the only signs and symptoms of unhealthy stress levels, they are undoubtedly among the most commonly experienced. If you are reading this post then I would hazard a guess that you believe you are experiencing too much stress. If that is the case I will give you one piece of advise: trust your instincts. If your body is telling you that you are too stressed out, you’re most likely too stressed out. And if that is the case, it’s time to take action and make some changes to bring your stress level down to a more manageable level.
While it may be true that experiencing stress is normal, it’s also true to chronically high levels of stress can contribute to significant health issues and a shorter life expectancy. Therefore, learning to cope with your stress before you cross the line into the unhealthy stress zone is not only essential for your mental and emotional well-being, but also extraordinarily important for your physical health as well.
If you feel as though you are experiencing high levels of stress for extended periods of time I would strongly encourage you to speak with a mental health professional. These practitioners will be able to provide you with individualized support and advice which can help you work towards bringing your stress level down and in turn increasing your overall happiness. And who wouldn’t want a little (or a lot) more happiness in their life?