20 (Not So Obvious) Signs And Symptoms Of Stress
Chronic stress, which we call hyperstimulation, is one of the leading causes of persistent anxiety symptoms. Chronic stress is also linked to the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
That’s because anxiety activates the stress response, which causes many physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that give the body an emergency “boost” when danger is perceived. Stress responses stress the body because of the many changes the stress response brings about. A body that’s under stress can exhibit symptoms. A body that’s continually stressed can exhibit persistent symptoms.
Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because overly apprehensive behavior is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stressed and symptomatic.
Unfortunately, many anxious people are surprised when they start having strong anxiety symptoms. We often hear them say, “I don’t know what brought this on. My symptoms came out of nowhere!”
The truth is, the body gives us plenty of warning that it’s becoming chronically stressed. It’s not that the body isn’t letting us know, but that many of us aren’t aware of the signs of escalating stress.
To help ward off a sudden onset of anxiety symptoms, to prevent a protracted recovery from hyperstimulation, and to prevent the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, here are 20 common signs your body is letting you know it is becoming chronically stressed.
20 Signs Your Body Is Becoming Chronically Stressed
1. An abundance of nervous energy
Stress causes stimulation because stress hormones are stimulants. If you feel an abundance of nervous energy, it could be a sign your body is becoming chronically stressed.
While short periods of high energy are normal, especially when stressed or rushed, persistent nervous energy is an indication your body is becoming, or already is, chronically stressed.
2. Racing mind / incessant mind chatter
Stress causes an increase in electrical activity in parts of the brain. An increase in electrical activity can cause the brain to produce an increase in thought generation. Having a racing mind with thoughts going seemingly a million miles an hour is a good indication your body’s stress is elevating.
Moreover, incessant mind chatter, where your brain won’t “shut off,” is another indication of elevating or chronic stress.
3. Difficulty resting
If you are having trouble resting, this is often a sign that the body is becoming chronically stressed (hyperstimulated). While it’s normal to have difficulty settling the body after physical exertion, if your body refuses to settle after 20 minutes or so, your body is becoming hyperstimulated (provided you haven’t ingested a stimulant).
Difficulty sitting still and a reduced ability to relax are common indications of elevating stress.
4. A persistent strong urge to go, go, go
Feeling a persistent urge to go, go, go is a common indication of elevating stress. While we can go, go, go for a while, always being on the go will cause the body to eventually crash from hyperstimulation if we don’t give the body ample time to rest and recover.
Experiencing an always on the “go, go, go” feeling is a common indication the body’s stress is elevating.
5. You believe you have many things you need to get done all at once and the internal pressure to get them done is relentless
Feeling like you’ve got many things to get done, and having a strong urge to get them done in spite of feeling you need to rest, is another indication of chronic stress.
While it’s normal to have periods where you feel overly busy, if you constantly feel this way, and if you are constantly feeling an internal pressure to get them done, that can mean stress is elevating.
6. Feeling like you don’t want to take time to rest
Rest is important. It gives the body time to recover from busyness so that you can go again when the body is sufficiently rested.
But if you aren’t taking sufficient time to rest because you don’t want to, even though you know you should, this is often another indication that the body’s stress is elevating. It’s the stimulation of stress that makes us feel like we don’t want to rest even though we know we should.
7. Sleep disturbances
Experiencing sleep disturbances is one of the most common signs of elevating stress. Disturbances can include, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early and having difficulty going back to sleep, having stress symptoms in your sleep, having stress symptoms that appear upon waking up, having stress symptoms that wake you up from sleep, having panic attacks that rouse you from sleep, having nightmares, having a hard time relaxing the body, etc., are all common indications of chronic stress.
If you are experiencing any of the above, chronic stress could be the reason.
8. Craving raw sugar foods and junk food
Stress uses the body’s energy resources much faster than usual. If you are continually craving raw sugar foods and junk food, which are high in sugar and calories, this could be a sign that your body’s stress is elevating.
9. Internal pressure to get things done in a hurry
As mentioned, stress stimulates the body. The more stressed we become, the higher the simulation.
Elevated stress creates a sense of urgency. If you are feeling an internal pressure to get things done NOW or as FAST as you can, this could be a sign your body’s stress is elevating.
10. Persistently feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to get things done
Stress can make us feel like small tasks are too much. It can also make us feel overwhelmed.
If you persistently feel you have too much to do and not enough time to get everything done, this could be an indication of elevating stress if rationally it seems there needn’t be a problem.
Yes, there can be times when our plates are too full where any additional task can feel overwhelming. But if you always feel this way, it could be elevating stress that is behind this feeling.
11. Your body doesn’t want to rest
If you are tired but find your body doesn’t want to settle and rest, this is a common indication of chronic stress.
It’s normal to be busy at times. That’s life. But it’s also normal to be able to rest when you want to. If your body doesn’t want to rest when you want to, that’s a good indication your body’s stress is elevating.
12. Everything looks depressing and bleak
Chronic stress can diminish our ability to reach the pleasure centers of the brain. The inability to reach our pleasure centers can make everything look bleak and hopeless.
Research has found that chronic stress can lead to depression. If you are feeling depressed and everything looks bleak, there is a high likelihood your body is chronically stressed.
13. Have a hard time feeling good about the things you used to feel good about
As mentioned, chronic stress can make it difficult to reach the pleasure centers of the brain. This can cause us to feel poorly, even about the things we normally feel good about. It can also cause us to feel “blah” about things we know we should feel good about.
If you are feeling “blah” or blue and can’t rationalize why, chronic stress could be the cause.
For more information, see our “Emotions Feel Wrong” symptom.
14. Life feels unsatisfying
Again, as we mentioned previously, chronic stress can make it more difficult to reach the pleasure centers of the brain. This can make life feel unsatisfying. Chronic stress is a common cause of feeling unsatisfied with life and things in general.
This feeling can also extend to our relationships. We may not be able to “feel” the feelings of love, and therefore, conclude that we no longer love our mate or children, which can be alarming for some people. But again, it’s because chronic stress can make it more difficult to reach the pleasure centers of the brain rather than no longer loving those who are close to us.
Inner and outer trembling is a common indication of stress. If you find your body trembling for no apparent reason, chronic stress is most likely the cause.
As mentioned, stress stimulates the body. Chronic stimulation is a common cause of persistent trembling.
Visit our “Trembling” anxiety symptom for more information.
16. Experiencing a variety of symptoms for no apparent reason
Chronic stress (hyperstimulation) can cause many symptoms, which can persist even though you may not feel stressed or anxious at the time. Chronic stress is a common cause of symptoms, even though you might not feel anxious or stressed at the time.
Common chronic stress symptoms include:
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating
- Back and neck pain
- Chronic pain
- Chronic stomach and digestive system upset
- Numbness and tingling
- Pins and needles feelings
- Ringing in the ears
- Chronic fatigue
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Restless legs
- Disrupted sleep
And so on.
Any anxiety symptom that persists can be an indication of chronic stress. Visit our “Anxiety Symptoms” article for a listing of common anxiety symptoms.
17. You are always in a hurry
Stress stimulates the body. The higher the stimulation, the faster we think we need to go.
If you notice you are hurrying and rushing about a lot, this could be an indication your body is heading toward hyperstimulation or is already hyperstimulated.
If you feel you can’t stop hurrying and rushing around because of an inner pressure to hurry, it’s likely a result of chronic stress.
18. Difficulty sitting still
Typically, we should be able to sit still and be comfortable. If you find you are having difficulty sitting still and being comfortable, the nervous energy caused by chronic stress could be the cause.
Fidgeting, nervous tapping, and constantly feeling like you have to move are all indications of elevating stress and stimulation.
Stress taxes the body’s energy resources harder than normal. Consequently, chronic stress can cause fatigue.
If you feel unusually tired yet you think you are getting proper rest, that’s often a good indication of chronic stress.
20. Feeling unusually irritable, impatient, and upset
Stress takes its toll not only on our physical bodies but also on our thinking, and therefore, emotions. If you are feeling unusually irritable, impatient, and upset, this could be a sign that your body’s stress is elevating.
Any one of the above, or combination thereof, are indications of rising stress.
What To Do
Fortunately, we can reverse a trend to hyperstimulation by recognizing when the body is heading there, and then taking action to reduce stress. Any activity that reduces stress can help calm the body down. Increasing rest and recovery time can reduce stress and prevent your body from becoming chronically stressed and symptomatic.
Visit our “Natural Ways To Relax To Reduce Stress And Anxiety” article for many natural ways to reduce stress.
If you notice one, many, or all of the above common stress indicators, be aware that your body’s stress is increasing. Taking action to reduce your body’s stress now can keep hyperstimulation and its symptoms at bay. It can also prevent symptoms of hyperstimulation from popping up “out of nowhere” and the potential of developing a mental health disorder.
Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for all of the changes hyperstimulation can cause.
If you are having difficulty containing your anxiousness or eliminating hyperstimulation (which is a common problem), you might want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. They are well-equipped with tools and strategies to help you successfully address any anxiety-related problem, including reducing stress, eliminating hyperstimulation and its symptoms, and successfully identifying and addressing the many underlying factors that cause issues with problematic anxiety.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
- For a comprehensive list of Anxiety Disorders Symptoms Signs, Types, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
- Anxiety and panic attacks symptoms can be powerful experiences. Find out what they are and how to stop them.
- How to stop an anxiety attack and panic.
- Free online anxiety tests to screen for anxiety. Two minute tests with instant results. Such as:
- Anxiety 101 is a summarized description of anxiety, anxiety disorder, and how to overcome it.
Return to Anxiety Tips section.
1. "5 Things You Should Know About Stress." National Institute of Mental Health, Aug. 2019.
2. Khan, Sarah, and Rafeeq Alam Khan. “Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression.” SciMedCentral, 2017.
3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.
4. Schneiderman, Neil, et al. “STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants.” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005.
5. "What causes depression?" Harvard Health Publishing, 24 June 2019.
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