7 Sneaky Signs You're Too Stress & How to Fix It!
Updated: Apr 18
Did you know that the World Health Organization called high-stress levels the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century?” And this was in 2016 before the pandemic! Our busy lives have been more disrupted, isolated, and stressful over the past few years.
When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones to keep us alert and ready to respond. The downside to this is this our natural stress response was developed long before modern-day society when a lion was more likely to be a threat than a work deadline or that feeling of isolation and vulnerability. While our bodies are well adapted for short-term stress, when this becomes chronic, our systems backfire.
How Does Stress Affect Our Health?
Stress causes our body to go through a three-stage process called General Adaptation Syndrome. In stage one, we’re sent into the phase you’re probably most familiar with– alarm– or more commonly called, “fight or flight”. Your heart races, your blood pressure increases, and your body releases cortisol and adrenaline to trigger more glucose and fuel a boost of energy. If the stressor isn’t resolved for a long time (like because of a taxing job or toxic relationship), your body won’t naturally transition through stage two, the resistance stage, where you’d normally begin to lower your cortisol back down to base levels. Instead, your body adapts to the stress and you find yourself in stage three — exhaustion. If you’re living in this stage, then you’re probably burnt out and long-term health consequences may be right around the corner.
Can Stress Be Serious?
So if you’re thinking, but ok, it’s just stress, how bad can it be? I have some news you’re probably not going to like. While everyone gets stressed sometimes, this constant state of chronic stress that so many of us are living under right now is not normal– and it’s not healthy. Unresolved stress can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, chronic headaches, and very often mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
7 Signs You’re Too Stressed
While some symptoms of too much stress could have other causes, other symptoms can be pretty distinct signs that you have too much cortisol pumping through your bloodstream. If the list below hits a little too close to home, then your stress levels may have been left unchecked for too long.
1. Weight Gain in Your Face & Upper Body
Constantly too high cortisol can not only lower your metabolic rate, it can also make you crave salty and sugary snacks more, which makes it hard to not gain a few pounds. Combine this with the inflammation in your face, midsection, and upper back that stress can cause and it can appear as if you’ve gained more weight in these areas.
2. Bruising More Easily
While you’ve probably heard that stress can cause acne, did you know it can make your skin thinner too? Too much cortisol disrupts the breakdown of dermal proteins and interferes with the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, leading to thinner skin that's more likely to wrinkle and much easier to bruise.
3. Slowed Healing
Unfortunately, another sign of too much stress is that those bruises will be slower to heal too. Too much stress interferes with the production of anti-inflammatory substances, which slows wound healing and lowers our immune system. If you feel like you've been catching every cold that’s been going around, stress just might be to blame!
4. Muscle Weakness
When you experience stress, your whole body tenses up, which is why living with
chronic stress often leads to tired and overworked muscles. Your muscles might go numb, feel heavy, or be too weak to move. It can take over your whole body or be more prominent in one part, like your legs. If your muscle weakness is caused by stress, it will be an intense, deep sense of weakness that isn’t co by post-gym soreness.
5. Severe Fatigue
Eventually, too much stress can lead to totally bottoming out on energy. When you don’t get enough rest, relaxation, and sleep, your cortisol levels stay high all the time and never get a chance to restore to baseline. Each day, you’ll wake up already feeling drained, exhausted, and ready to go back to bed.
6. Chronic Headaches
For me, this was the final wake-up call symptom that I needed to do something about my chronic stress. Migraines kept me in pain six days a week and controlled my entire schedule. Both migraines and tension headaches can be a sign of too much stress from the painful combination of muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, and head and the high blood pressure surges that come from your body producing too much adrenaline.
While burnout can cause lots of changes that influence your mood, irritability is the feeling that most distinctly represents what it feels like to be stressed for too long. Even the kindest people can end up lashing out in anger. When everything and everyone seems irritating, it may be time to start some new stress coping techniques.
So How Can You Manage Stress?
Add a Little More Balance to Life- Can you identify what’s causing you stress? Well, then completely eliminate it and you’re good to go! I’m kidding… For most of us, what causes us stress are also things we enjoy, like our careers and families. Check out the tips I shared in an earlier post– Lifestyle Habits for Balanced Hormones– for more on how you can use diet, exercise, and other everyday lifestyle steps to lower your stress hormones in a balanced and realistic way.
Cut Back on Caffeine- I’m sorry to inform you, but it may be time to break up with Starbucks. While the energy kick from coffee and other caffeine sources can help in the short term, it makes things so much worse in the long run. I start my day now with Hydrophoria, which has both collagen and probiotics for a healthy boost of fuel that won’t leave you crashing later.
Rely on Your Community- Did you know hugs, laughter, and just being surrounded by the support of friends and family have all been found to improve our resistance to stress? Lower your cortisol by reaching out to a few of your favorite people!
Choose a Good Supplement- Living in a constant fight or flight mode leaves you drained and depleted of key nutrients. A supplement with B-complexes, L-tyrosine, selenium, iodine, and zinc (My favorite is Top Up Tonic, of course!) can help you start better regulating your stress hormones.
Are you one of the millions of people suffering from burnout right now? Do you have any great tips for managing it? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!