Important Information about Several Symptoms of Stress

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When work is getting challenging, or money is getting tight, or a houseguest has overstayed his or her welcome, or you just can't take your husband's socks on the floor anymore, you might begin to feel a headache forming behind your eyes. Your heart may begin to race and your thoughts will return again and again to your troubles.

This is what stress does to us, and even small, seemingly inconsequential things can be a source of stress in our lives. The effects of stress can also accumulate within our bodies over days or weeks, causing feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and even symptoms that feel like heart attacks. If you are experiencing palpitations, pain in your chest that radiates through the left side of your body, dizziness, and weakness, get help right away, as it is possible that you are having an actual heart attack.

Stress can cause both your health and quality of life to suffer, so it is important to be able to pinpoint its symptoms and causes so that you can begin work on treating and managing your stress. There are three primary ways that stress manifests in the body: physical symptoms, mental symptoms, and behavioral symptoms.

Physical Symptoms of Stress

When stress builds up within us, constant muscle tension can cause many different kinds of pain in the body, including back and neck pain, headaches and even chest pain. The tension associated with stress can also bring on stomach upset like heartburn or indigestion. Stress can also lead to symptoms like heart palpitations and heart disease if left unchecked and untreated. On a similar vein, stress can cause an increase in your blood pressure, which is dangerous for your health.

The aches and pains associated with high levels of stress can also make it difficult to sleep, or cause you to wake up multiple times during the night. Insomnia by itself can cause stress, so the situation becomes self perpetuating and can quickly get out of control. These symptoms can also combine to weaken your immune system. People who live with high levels of stress may get sicker easier, or stay sick longer than people who live peaceful or relaxed lives.

Mental Symptoms of Stress

Although stress causes physical symptoms, it begins in the mind. For example, a mother whose teenager is late when returning from a party might sit and worry and pace restlessly. She'll undoubtedly have several different types of strong emotional reactions. We would say that this woman is "stressed," and we would be correct, but we rarely think about her churning stomach or her sudden headache.

Mental symptoms of stress include anxiety, restlessness, and worry, just like the mother in the scenario above. It can also include irritability, anger, or sadness, even going so far as to drive some people into an actual episode of depression. Stress can also cause feelings of insecurity or a lack of ability to focus, even on simple tasks. You might become extremely forgetful, especially of things that do not relate directly to the focus of your stress. For example, you might remember every detail of an extensive project for work, but cannot find your glasses or car keys, or remember to pick a child up from hockey practice. High levels of stress can also lead to a feeling of being burned out, or unable to continue working on your current projects.

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

The effects of stress on our bodies and minds can be profound, causing us to become so caught up in our situation that we develop negative habits or tics. For example, some people try to ease their feeling of stress by eating, which is traditionally a comforting action. With high levels of stress can come an increasing desire to eat or overeat, even when we are not hungry. On the other hand, some people are so full of tension when they are stressed that they become physically nauseous and have little interest in food or eating. These people may make themselves sick or lose a lot of weight in an unhealthy way.

People under a lot of stress may also be prone to emotional outbursts, like crying or angry rants. This can cause conflict in relationships, even if the outbursts are relatively minor. Substance abuse may also arise during periods of high stress, causing people to increase or take up smoking, or begin to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Stress is a very real emotion with legitimate physical and mental symptoms. By understanding how your body reacts to stress, and pinpointing your specific symptoms, you can better manage your stress and avoid certain triggers.

Leslie Silver is a freelance writer who writes about self improvement and stress management.

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