Everyone experiences stress – but do you know when you’re experiencing stress?
Stress is a very normal response to changes in our environment. Stress can be positive (e.g., winning a race, getting a promotion) and even useful in small amounts, but too much negative stress—or feeling stressed for too long—can be bad for your health and quality of life.
Being able to recognize when you are under negative stress and how to properly manage it are important skills. However, sometimes it’s difficult to identify your own stress. It’s often easier to identify stress in others, or for others to identify stress in you.You can't manage your stress if you don't realize that you suffer from it. Know the signs and symptoms of chronic stress, and know when to seek help. Click To Tweet
The American Institute of Stress reports that more than 70 percent of Americans regularly experience physical or psychological symptoms caused by negative stress, and one-third of Americans live with extreme stress. Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of negative stress and how to manage it so you can live a healthier and happier life.
How do you feel?
Chronic stress affects your mood and how you feel.
Stress can make you feel irritable, frustrated, and impatient. It can make you feel nervous, anxious, or depressed. It can give you a negative disposition, or cause mood swings.
You may have low self-esteem, low confidence, or lack motivation. Maybe you are unusually sensitive to criticism, or you get defensive when there is no need.
Is your behavior different?
High levels of stress can affect your behavior and cause changes in how you conduct your daily life.
Stress can lead to poor time management, rash decision making, or impulsive behavior. It can cause poor concentration and forgetfulness that lead to making mistakes more frequently. Maybe you find yourself lying or stretching the truth even though you are usually an honest person.
Chronic stress can cause conflict and problems at home, school, or work. It can lead to strained relationships, social withdrawal, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
Do you have physical changes?
In addition to psychological and behavioral symptoms, stress can cause physical symptoms.
Stress can cause digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation, or diarrhea. It can cause headaches, body aches, or tense muscles.
Chronic stress may lead to difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and changes in eating habits that result in weight loss or weight gain.
It can cause hives or rashes, breathing problems, and a weakened immune system. Stress can also elevate your blood pressure and increase your risk for stroke and heart disease.
What to do about your stress
It can be difficult to identify when you are under stress. People find different things stressful, and people respond to stress in different ways. Symptoms of stress can vary from person to person, and those symptoms can be mild or severe.
People sometimes dismiss or ignore stress, and many accept chronic, negative stress as a normal part of life. Don’t rationalize your behavior, or assume that your symptoms will go away. Chronic negative stress is not OK.
Once you recognize that you have stress, make sure that you take active steps to manage it. There are many ways to manage stress, but your doctor can help you find the stress management techniques that work best for you.
Talk to your primary care physician about stress if you feel it impacts your life in too many negative ways. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health care specialist to help find the best treatment choices for your stress.
At MANA, we have a dedicated team of mental health specialists experienced in helping people overcome chronic stress. Northwest Arkansas Psychiatry has two psychiatrists, a mental health nurse practitioner, and a therapist available to help you work on living a healthier, happier life. To learn more about how they can help you manage stress, call NWA Psychiatry at (479) 571-6363.