Noticing your signs of stress

People notice stress differently. For some, they notice stress in their body like tension headaches, or feeling sick. Others may feel overwhelmed, being irritable one moment then bursting into tears the next. And for some people, the thoughts are the most disturbing; they might worry over things every waking hour and feel as if they are unable to control their thoughts.

Some people might not be aware they are stressed, but will affect others around them e.g. blowing up at other people without even realising they are stressed, or finding that they are avoiding doing things. Most people have several signs of stress, but one usually stands out. 

Here are some examples. What are the stress symptoms that stand out to you most? Is it your thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms or behaviours?

Thoughts Feelings Physical Symptoms Behaviours
Difficulty making decisions, feeling that you have too much to do Moodiness Loss/increased appetite Being accident prone and clumsy
Difficulty concentrating, feeling easily distracted Irritable Breathing difficulties Overreacting to situations
Forgetting what you’re supposed to do Agitated Increased heart rate Weight loss/gain
Racing thoughts Overwhelmed Frequent flus and colds Rushing to places and being regularly late for appointments
Trouble thinking clearly Tensed and edgy Physical aches and pains, muscle tension Teeth grinding
Constant worrying and not being able to put your mind at rest Unhappy and miserable Frequent headaches Angry outbursts and being argumentative
Predicting the worst and blowing the situation out of proportion Bursting into tears easily Nausea/tummy upsets Avoiding seeing friends and family
Thinking over and over again about what has happened to you and not being able to let go Numb Sleeping more/less than usual Delaying tasks – “I’ll do it tomorrow”
Difficulty making decisions, feeling that you have too much to do Hopelessness Tiredness Nervous habits e.g. nail biting, hair pulling, skin picking
Only seeing the negatives in a situation and ignoring the positives – lots of “yes, but…”
Difficulty remaining objective and letting your feelings rule
Being critical and beating yourself up
Demanding high standards of yourself and others
Thoughts of not being able to cope

Knowing your signs of stress is a good way to know when you’re feeling stressed, and gives you a chance to overcome stress as soon as possible. Apart from knowing your signs of stress, it is also helpful to understand what makes you stressed.