Are you experiencing an unhealthy level of stress?

Published January 23, 2015

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Stress isn’t always bad. In moderate doses, it can help you perform under pressure and help you stay focused, motivated and alert. Beyond a certain point however, stress stops being helpful and starts impacting on your health, mood, productivity and relationships with the people around you. The following signs and symptoms describe unhealthy levels of stress:

  • Overeating or under eating1 – Everyone deals with stress in different ways. You might find you turn to comforting fatty or sugary foods, or turn off food altogether. Both are warning signs that stress may be taking its toll.
  • Trouble sleeping1 – Constant stress can make it difficult to switch off even when you want to rest. If you take your work home with you or try to solve problems at the end of the day, it can make falling and staying asleep much more difficult.
  • Headaches and muscle tension1 – Stress and anxiety can trigger headaches, by increasing muscle tension, flooding the body with stress chemicals, reducing the level of ‘relaxation’ chemicals, decreasing emotional tolerance to stressors and reducing a person’s pain threshold.2
  • Angry outbursts1 – When in heavy traffic, do you get annoyed at other drivers? Or does the way people do or say things get on your nerves? Feeling easily irritated and having a low threshold for dealing with annoyances, can be a sign that you’re experiencing stress overload.
  • Weakened immune system1 – Stress produces changes in many body systems and may alter immune function. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or under pressure you may find that you catch everything going around or feel generally under the weather.
  • Relationship problems1 – It you’re bringing your hassles home with you and taking it out on your loved ones, then it’s likely you’re experiencing an unhealthy level of stress.
  • Feeling moody, tearful1 – When daily pressures build up they can make some people feel low or tearful.
  • Having difficulty concentrating1 – Ironically, acute stress can improve concentration for a short period of time. When prolonged however, it can affect the ability to concentrate and interfere with your work or daily routine.
  • Fatigue1 – The longer stress lasts, the worse it is for your mind and body. When you feel constantly overwhelmed, you may end up feeling tired, fatigued and ‘burnt out‘.

If you recognize at least some of the signs, symptoms or behaviors listed above, then it might be a good idea to explore stress management. This might involve altering the circumstances that are causing you stress or using relaxation and other techniques to reduce its effects on your mind, body and behavior.

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