Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that irritating headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the cause.
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them. Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Common effects of stress
|On your body
||On your mood
||On your behavior
||Overeating or undereating
|Muscle tension or pain
||Lack of motivation or focus
||Drug or alcohol misuse
|Change in sex drive
||Irritability or anger
||Sadness or depression
||Exercising less often
If you have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have many health benefits. Explore stress management strategies, such as:
- Getting regular physical activity
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage
- Keeping a sense of humor
- Spending time with family and friends
- Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
Aim to find active ways to manage your stress. Inactive ways to manage stress — such as watching television, surfing the internet or playing video games — may seem relaxing, but they may increase your stress over the long term.
And be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine and alcohol, and the use of illegal substances.
If you're not sure if stress is the cause or if you've taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, see your doctor. Your healthcare provider may want to check for other potential causes. Or consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist, who can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.
Also, get emergency help immediately if you have chest pain, especially if you also have shortness of breath, jaw or back pain, pain radiating into your shoulder and arm, sweating, dizziness, or nausea. These may be warning signs of a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.
March 24, 2021
- How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress. Accessed March 5, 2019.
- Stress and your health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/good-mental-health/stress-and-your-health. Accessed March 5, 2019.
- Seaward BL. Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017.
- Manage stress. Healthfinder.gov. http://healthfinder.gov/healthtopics/population/men/mental-health-and-relationships/manage-stress. Accessed March 5, 2019.
- Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 9th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2018.
- Warning signs of a heart attack. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack#.VsZCDtj2bIU. Accessed March 5, 2019.