Stress Symptoms: Physical & Emotional Effects

woman holding her head stressed

How many times a day do you feel stressed? You may be aggravated by the little things, like a car cutting you off on the freeway or your teenager breaking curfew. Or maybe you’re dealing with true hardships, such as unemployment, illness, or the loss of a loved one. All of your big and little stressors need to be managed because built-up stress can harm your health.

There are many emotional and physical symptoms of stress. Understanding the body’s stress response and recognizing those symptoms in your own life will shed light on how you can take better care of yourself by dealing with stress in a positive manner. We’re here to guide you.

How Does The Stress Response Work?

The body generates a fight-or-flight response when you face a perceived threat. This starts in the brain when the amygdala alerts the hypothalamus that danger is ahead. The hypothalamus cues the adrenal glands to produce the epinephrine hormone. 

As epinephrine courses through the veins, it prepares you to fend off an attack—your heart rate increases, for example, and your body gets a quick surge of energy from stored glucose. Your body remains on high alert with the release of more stress hormones, such as cortisol. Once the danger passes, you relax as the levels of stress hormones fall back to normal. 

The stress response isn’t a health hazard when it works as it should—for occasional threats. But when you get too stressed out, the fight-or-flight response is always activated and that takes a more serious toll on your well-being. 

What are Common Stress Symptoms?

Chronic stress is a real threat to overall wellness because it has physical and psychological impacts. Stress symptoms look different for everyone, depending on how they deal with difficult situations and their current health condition. Here’s a rundown of common signs that your stress levels may be running amok.

Stress Symptoms Checklist

Physical Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illnesses due to a weakened immune system
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, constipation, or diarrhea)
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleeplessness
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweat, especially on the feet or palms
  • Dry mouth
  • Shallow, rapid breath rate
  • Jaw pain from clenching or teeth grinding
  • Weight gain or weight loss due to changes in appetite
  • Lower sex drive

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Mood swings (anger, irritability, etc.)
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Low-self esteem
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Worrisome thoughts that you can’t shake
  • Nervousness, which could lead to tics such as biting your nails
  • Feeling overwhelmed by disorganization or lack of focus
  • Negativity

Why Is It Important to Reduce Stress?

A build-up of stress can have long-term consequences as symptoms persist and worsen. For instance, the emotional symptoms of stress could lead to anxiety or depression disorders. They can also manifest in problems such as eating disorders or substance abuse, which have their own physical and emotional symptoms.

Prolonged stress can also affect the body and create serious health issues. These include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Hair loss
  • Skin conditions (acne or eczema)
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis

In today’s busy world, stress may not always be unavoidable, but it can be managed. If some of these stress symptoms seem all too familiar to you, it’s time to be proactive and make positive lifestyle changes. 

7 Healthy Habits to Help You Stress Less

  • Talk with your physician.
  • Certain stress symptoms are similar to those signifying medical conditions that need to be treated. A doctor’s visit can help rule out these other causes.

  • Get professional help.
  • A counselor or therapist can work with you on any issues underlying your stress and give you coping strategies.

  • Check your hormone levels.
  • True Marker’s at-home stress test gives you valuable insight into your cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol may indicate a dysfunctional stress response.

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Physical activity not only burns off restless, nervous energy, it also prompts a feel-good endorphin rush that lightens your mood. Aim for about 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. 

  • Practice stress reduction techniques every day.
  • Start your day with a five-minute meditation, or wind down for the night with some gentle tai chi moves. Yoga and deep-breathing exercises are also excellent ways to calm the mind and body.

  • Maintain a strong social network.
  • Family and friends are a valuable source of support (and laughter, which is another great stress buster). Regularly make time for phone calls or in-person visits with the people you care about. 

  • Take time for yourself.
  • Self-care is important for your well-being. For some people, that means taking up a new hobby such as painting. For others, it’s getting a massage to recharge and find release from the physical symptoms of stress

    True Marker offers a variety of general home health tests in addition to the stress test kit. Explore the many ways you can take charge of your health.