7 Signs You're More Stressed Than You RealizeBy Kelsey Ogletree Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
Your alarm is going off for the third time, but you can’t seem to get out of bed. Lately, you haven’t been able to sleep through the night and find yourself feeling rundown and sluggish. If you can relate to this scenario — it may be more than a case of the Mondays — you could be experiencing physical symptoms of stress.
Stress doesn’t only affect your brain — it can also manifest itself physically and impact the rest of your body. Common signs of stress and anxiety, like a racing heart or sweaty palms, are natural physical symptoms of stress, according to the American Psychological Association.1 While not all stress is a bad thing (like before a job interview or the start of a 5K race), other types of stress and anxiety can take a toll on your overall health without you even realizing what might be causing them. Scan this stress symptoms checklist to see if you’re experiencing any of these, and use our simple tips to help you unwind!
1. You’re gaining weight
Ever notice that your jeans seem to fit a little more snugly when you’re up against a tight deadline at work? Or perhaps you’ve hit a recent weight loss plateau? You’re not imagining it — stress can cause weight gain for a variety of reasons. One study found that experiencing a stressful event the day before eating even one high-fat meal can slow your metabolism.2,3
WHAT CAN HELP: Focus on making healthy choices throughout the day. Skip the donuts in the office breakroom and opt for a healthier alternative like an apple with a small amount (1 teaspoon) of nut butter. Feeling tense during the work day? Try adding a 10-minute walk to your lunch break to get some fresh air and sneak in some activity.
Even if you practice good habits to avoid getting sick — like washing your hands regularly and avoiding others who are ill — stress can still impact your immune system. Not only can being stressed increase your likelihood of catching a bug,4 but it can also make it harder to bounce back. This is mainly due to your body’s release of the hormone cortisol, which temporarily reduces your normal inflammatory response to viruses and bacteria. Research indicates that chronic stress can make your body less sensitive to the hormone — which may make you more susceptible to illness.5
WHAT CAN HELP: Try meditation: you’ll learn to focus your thoughts to reduce your overall stress. Start small by committing to just five minutes a day – try a guided meditation by watching a video or downloading an app. (Here are 4 reasons why you should give meditation a try.)
3. You find yourself mindlessly eating
Zoning out in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream when you’re not hungry can be the result of an old habit, boredom, stress or a combination of the three. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to reach for high-fat, sugar-filled comfort foods that are easy to overeat (again, because of that pesky stress hormone cortisol).6
WHAT CAN HELP: Before fixing yourself a snack or a meal, rate your hunger level. If you’re not truly hungry, try doing something else, such as calling a friend, drinking a glass of water or going for a walk.
4. You’re low on energy
Feeling overwhelmed or just less motivated than usual? Check your stress levels. While constantly being tired can be related to a number of other health concerns, stress can also play a part.7 Research shows stress can be associated with fatigue, which may affect your personal and professional life.7 Women tend to experience this effect more often than men.7
WHAT CAN HELP: Find your happy place. Surrounding yourself with positive energy can help you get yours back, whether that’s through spending time with people you enjoy, or retreating to an environment that makes you feel calm.
5. You’re experiencing digestion problems
You know that old phrase about your stomach being in knots? Stress really can impact your digestion process and it can take different forms, including indigestion, stomachaches, bloating and/or gas.8 Stress can also cause flare-ups in people with irritable bowel syndrome.8
WHAT CAN HELP: Focus on eating nutrient-rich foods that are easy to digest. Simplify your routine by designating go-to items for breakfasts, lunches and snacks that make healthy choices easy.
6. You’re not sleeping well
Stressful events and major life changes — like divorce, financial problems or the loss of a loved one — can lead to insomnia.9 Less-serious stressors, like worrying about your to-do list, can also cause short-term insomnia for 15-20 percent of adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.10 It has a compounding effect, too, because sleep deprivation may actually make you feel more stressed.
WHAT CAN HELP: Try scheduling a 20-minute power nap during the day to help you recharge. Also, try to reduce your caffeine intake in the afternoon and evenings. (Here’s how to start getting better sleep tonight!)
7. You’re always forgetting something
If you find yourself being more absentminded than usual – like forgetting your grocery store list, constantly misplacing your keys, or panicking that you lost your phone again (when it’s in your hand) – it could be a signal that you are overly stressed. One study’s findings indicate that experiencing prolonged spikes in cortisol can lead to memory lapses as we age.11
WHAT CAN HELP: Improve your time management by taking a few things off your to-do list. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to a request if you feel like there is too much on your plate.
We hope these tips will help you unwind if you’re feeling frazzled. Looking for more ways to relax? Check out these 8 surprising ways to de-stress.
If meal prep is another item on your to-do list — take it off! Let Jenny Craig take care of your meal planning with healthy dishes that take the guesswork out of weight loss. Get started today!
Kelsey is a Chicago-based journalist specializing in wellness and travel who writes for publications like Shape, Cooking Light and The Wall Street Journal. When she's not working, she loves trying out new healthy recipes and traveling as much as possible.
Favorite healthy snack: Plain Greek yogurt with a few chocolate chips
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, Registered Dietitian at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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