Emotional stress can have a major impact on you mentally and physically. It's easy to write off emotional stress as a minor problem that you hope will eventually just go away. However, that's far from the case.
Whether you're being emotionally drained from work, a traumatic event or other situations, don't downplay the stress you're feeling. As you'll see in this article, while emotional stress can sometimes be minor, it can also snowball into a bigger issue that impacts every area of your life.
What is Emotional Stress?
Emotional stress is something many of us experience without being aware of how deeply we are experiencing it. Even just a "bad day" here and there can lead to emotional stress. Emotional stress manifests differently in different people and can be highly situational.
As Dr. Abby Aronowitz notes, the key to understanding if you truly have a decreased quality of life due to emotional stress is its intensity, frequency, and endurance.
So, what are some symptoms of emotional stress that you should be looking for? The following are the ten most common symptoms of emotional stress. Remember, if you think you're experiencing emotional stress, there is no shame in reaching out for help.
10 Symptoms of Emotional Stress
1. You're Having Trouble Sleeping
Insomnia is a major indicator that emotional stress is occurring. Ask yourself, "When did my sleeping problems begin?" If they began close to a time when you were experiencing a lot of stress, you might have found your culprit.
What can you do to help reduce your insomnia? As Dr. Neil B. Kavey states, you should
- Set your bedtime and wake-time to the number of hours you are currently sleeping. Incrementally add time on as you go until you get to about 8 full hours of rest per night.
- Spend a sufficient amount of time doing wind-down activities each night before bed. Find an activity that relaxes your mind, such as reading, meditation, or listening to soothing music.
- Focus on making your bedroom a "disconnected" zone. Leave your computer and phone in another room for the night, and don't spend time talking to your partner in the bedroom before you go to sleep.
Over-the-counter medications can be effective but can still leave you feeling tired. It's best to find ways to reduce triggers for stress when dealing with sleep disturbances. Seek professional help when your strategies do not work.
2. Your Weight is Dramatically Fluctuating Up or Down
Emotional stress triggers reactions in your body that can cause you to eat too much or not enough. For many people, stress sends our bodies into survival mode because our bodies mistakenly think they've used up a lot of calories to deal with the stress. The release of the "stress hormone" cortisol is triggered when we're under a great deal of stress, leading to higher insulin levels and lowered blood sugar, which prompts those cravings for fatty foods.
You can avoid stress-related cravings by
- Listening to soothing music
- Getting moderate exercise
- Getting enough rest
3. You Lash Out on People For No Reason
Most of the time, we keep our anger in check. However, when under a great deal of stress, it's common to lash out at people for no real reason. Anger is one of the biggest hidden anxiety-based emotions.
When you're angry, your body's chemical makeup is impacted (especially adrenaline and noradrenaline), and your blood pressure and heart rate become elevated. This can lead to a stroke or other serious health issues.
You can keep your anger in check by
- Practicing mindfulness
- Meditating or taking deep breaths
- Reducing the triggers for stress
4. You Have Low Energy Levels Throughout The Day
Emotional stress causes changes in the body's neurochemical makeup and requires a shift in energy use to aid in the "fight-or-flight" response. Chronic stress depletes the adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus, thereby leading to adrenal fatigue (which is commonly referred to as "brain fog").
You can allow your body to find its equilibrium and restore energy by:
- Reducing stress
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Supplement your vitamins as directed by a doctor (here's a great natural option)
- Remain well-hydrated
5. You Have Trouble Remembering Things
Ever think you're so stressed that you're losing your mind? Stress interferes with how we process information. Stress takes up those precious resources, leaving you unable to remember important information (like meetings or appointments) that you were trying to process through your short-term memory.
If you're under stress, make sure that you slow down, pay attention, and rehearse or write down notes as needed. You can spend some additional time elaborating to yourself on the information you're trying to remember.
6. You Stop Doing Things You Used to Enjoy
Stress is emotionally and physically draining, leaving us lacking the energy to do things we used to love. This can ultimately propel a person into feeling depressed and even hopeless.
Take time each day to do something healthy that you enjoy, such as painting or talking with a friend. This allows you time to recover your equilibrium.
7. Your Sex Drive Has Decreased
Stress triggers cortisol release and impacts the reproductive system in men and women. This often leads to reduced sexual drive.
8. Your Behavior Has Become More Erratic
Stress changes how we behave, causing us to have trouble controlling urges. You might make a decision based on a few perceived positives while ignoring downsides.
Slow your self down and remember to practice mindfulness. Take notes on your thoughts without fixating on them.
9. You Withdraw From Friends & Family
Stress absorbs so much time and energy that it can cause you to withdraw from loved ones. This is clinically referred to as "avoidance coping," which is essentially a maladaptive coping mechanism for dealing with (and trying to prevent further) chronic emotional stress.
When you catch yourself withdrawing, try reducing stress through your preferred solitary technique (for example, by meditating), then consider confiding in a close friend or family member or finding a relaxing social event to attend.
10. You Become Pessimistic
One study has linked long-term stress with pessimism. Stress affects our neurochemicals and, therefore, our personalities. When stress eases, many of us tend to become more optimistic again.
As with the other symptoms, reducing stress is key to overcoming these symptoms. Incorporate enjoyable activities into your day and practice mindfulness. This can help stabilize your cortisol level, restore your depleted energy reserves, and allow you to feel a little more optimistic.