We often underestimate the power of stress and its insidious ability to seep into every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, you might even be more stressed than you realize. Here, we’ll walk through five subtle signs of stress and how you can manage it effectively.
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1. You have Difficulty Concentrating
You may find that lately, your usual laser-sharp focus has been replaced by a sense of constant distraction. People under stress often report difficulty concentrating. When you’re stressed, your body literally goes into fight-or-flight mode, which can precisely make it harder to focus on the task at hand.
If you’re finding it hard to stay on task or you’re constantly forgetting things, it might be time to consider if stress is the culprit. But fear not, there are strategies to help you regain your focus:
- Mindfulness and meditation. These practices can help calm your racing mind and bring you back to the present. Just five minutes a day can make a significant difference.
- Take regular breaks. Instead of pushing through your work, take short breaks to rest your mind. Try the Pomodoro Technique — work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.
- Limit distractions. Clean your workspace, turn off social media notifications, and create a peaceful environment to concentrate.
2. Your Sleep Pattern is Disrupted
Have you been tossing and turning at night, finding it hard to fall asleep, or waking up in the wee hours of the morning? Stress can significantly disrupt your sleep, according to numerous scientific studies. And ironically, lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to stress, creating a vicious cycle.
So, what can you do if stress is stealing your precious slumber?
- Establish a sleep routine. Make a commitment to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment. Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Consider using earplugs or a sleep mask if necessary.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These substances can disrupt your sleep cycle. Try to limit your intake, especially in the evening.
3. You’re Feeling More Irritable Than Usual
Is your fuse shorter than usual? Are you snapping at your loved ones or getting upset over small things? Increased irritability can be a sign that you’re under more stress than you realize.
Here are a few ways to manage your irritability:
- Practice deep breathing. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce your stress levels and calm you down when you’re feeling irritable.
- Engage in physical activity. Regular exercise can help burn off stress-induced energy and improve your mood.
- Reach out to a friend or loved one. Sometimes, simply talking about what’s bothering you can help reduce your feelings of irritability.
4. Your Appetite Has Changed
If you’ve been reaching for comfort foods more often or, conversely, find that you’re not hungry at all, it could be a sign of stress. Stress can alter your eating habits, leading to weight gain or weight loss.
Here are a few strategies to manage stress-related changes in appetite:
- Eat a balanced diet. Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Avoid skipping meals. Even if you’re not hungry, try to eat small, nutritious meals throughout the day.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger. Hence, ensure you drink enough water throughout the day.
5. You’re Experiencing Unexplained Aches and Pains
Have you noticed a sudden onslaught of headaches? Maybe a persistent backache? Physical discomfort, like headaches or stomachaches, can be a sign of stress.
If you’re experiencing unexplained aches and pains, consider the following:
- Mind-body practices. Yoga and tai chi not only strengthen the body but also help reduce stress.
- See a healthcare professional. If your symptoms persist, consult a healthcare provider. They can help determine if your symptoms are stress-related or due to another condition.
Don’t Ignore The Signs
Stress can manifest itself in many ways, and it’s essential to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you. Remember, managing stress is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and different approaches work for different people. Experiment with the techniques mentioned above to find what works best for you.
Further Reading: Are You Stressed Out? 7 Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels