Life today is increasingly hectic and filled with demands that can leave many of us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and overstressed. Unfortunately excessive, prolonged stress takes a heavy toll both mentally and physically. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs that your body and mind are straining under too heavy a load so you can take steps to get relief before health issues set in.
What Exactly Is Over Stress?
Stress in itself is not inherently bad – in fact some stress that leads to meeting challenges and achieving goals in life is healthy. Over stress occurs when demands upon you become difficult to physically and mentally manage on an ongoing basis, depriving your body and mind of necessary down time. It’s the chronic, constant high levels of stress that more deeply tax the body’s regulatory systems, throwing critical functions off balance.
Key Physical Signs Your Body Is Over Stressed
Tuning into key physical signs is one of the best ways to determine if your body is over stressed from an excessively high-pressured lifestyle. Here are 5 vital bodily cues:
Digestive Discomfort/IBS Flareups
When your body is chronically stressed, blood flow is diverted away from your digestive system as part of “fight or flight” mode. This can trigger gastrointestinal distress such as stomach pain, heartburn, abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea – especially for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.) Frequent or prolonged digestive issues can both cause and reflect stress overloads.
Headaches and Migraines
Stress is one of the most common triggers for headaches, including migraines and tension headaches. Over taxing physical and mental demands lead to constriction then later dilation of blood vessels which can spark painful headaches. If you are experiencing more frequent or severe headaches, it may be a sign your body is pushed past healthy limits.
Increased Infections and Illness
Research shows psychological stress and the accompanying rise of the stress hormone cortisol suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens. When you are constantly over stressed, you’re significantly more susceptible to catching coughs, colds and other illnesses as the body’s natural defenses are depleted. Chronic stress can even lead to slower wound healing and increased inflammation throughout the body.
Muscle Tension and Pain
Neck, shoulder and back muscle soreness and spasms are common when you’re over stressed. When under extreme demands, muscles involuntarily tense up and contract as the mind subconsciously braces against “threats.” This persistent tightening of muscles can cause debilitating overuse injuries and pain like sciatica or tendonitis over time. Make a point of regularly massaging where you carry tension.
Over functioning in a high stress state for extended periods gradually exhausts the adrenal glands and hormonal regulatory system. The result is crashing energy levels, feeling wired yet tired all the time, unrefreshing sleep and low stamina for daily activities – key markers of adrenal exhaustion. Listen to your body’s pleas for rest when you feel constantly drained.
Emotional Signs to Consider Your mood and state of mind offer additional evidence into whether you’ve crossed over into unhealthy levels of stress. Be self-aware around these psychological signs of excess strain:
Lashing out easily at small frustrations is one of the hallmarks of over stress. The continual pumping of stress hormones primed for reaction can leave you feeling on edge, hypersensitive and irritable. Make an effort to pause and reset your mood when you catch yourself snapping or overreacting.
Racing Thoughts/Difficulty Relaxing
Churning thoughts make falling asleep at night difficult when your mind and body feel overwhelmed under high pressure demands. Without enough downtime, thoughts can spiral as the mind struggles to psychologically regroup. Build in daily relaxation practices to give your brain needed peace.
Loss Of Motivation
While short term stress can initially boost drive, chronic excessive stress often blunts motivation levels over time due to adrenal depletion. You may be pushing hard, yet have difficulty feeling consistently inspired, focused or productive – a sign you need more rest breaks.
Prolonged exposure to unmanageable demands frequently trigger anxiety, restlessness and feelings of inner turmoil or dread. Practices like mindful breathing, meditation and yoga help counteract surging panic and worry by activating the body’s relaxation response. Make these a priority if anxiety rises.
How To Mitigate The Damaging Impacts From Over Stress
The longer you disregard signs of over stress, the higher your risk for accelerated aging, heart disease, diabetes, depression and inflammation-related disorders. Prioritize these 5 key relief strategies:
- Institute Mandatory Downtime – Make resting and relaxing nonnegotiable parts of your schedule, not luxuries you constantly cancel when pressures ramp up. Your body desperately requires recharging periods after surges of demands. Set alarms reminding you take adequate breaks.
- Adjust Your Environment – A chaotic, noisy or overly stimulating environment itself generates excess stress. Seek out tranquility spots for calming settings to offset external sensory strain from your surroundings throughout your day.
- Set Better Boundaries – Burnout often results from not establishing healthy boundaries around workload and responsibilities. Protect your off-work time fiercely and learn to say no so you don’t endlessly over-commit to demands exceeding your bandwidth.
- Eat Stress-Reducing Foods – Magnesium and antioxidant-rich whole foods help relieve effects of stress. Focus your diet around dark leafy greens, fatty fish like salmon, avocados, walnuts, blueberries and foods high in omega-3s and fiber which protect nervous system health.
- Adopt Stress Management Practices – Don’t underestimate the immense benefits of even short daily habits that reset the nervous system back into balance – like breathwork, yoga, nature immersion, meditation, massage and visualization. Identify those that best reduce your personal stress levels. The more regularly you make use of such stress antidotes, the faster both mind and body will regain equilibrium in the face of excessive demands placed on you. Pay close attention to the telltale signs, and take focused action to mitigate unhealthy over stress before it creates deeper damage. Your health and wellbeing depend on living in alignment – not constant overdrive.