How to Recognize Stress

Stressed man holding his head

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is the body’s way of responding and adapting to change. In many instances, stress can be positive. Feeling stress when faced with a project deadline at work can help you find the motivation to be successful. Experiencing stress while driving in heavy traffic can help you avoid accidents by keeping you alert. In fact, you may not consider positive stress to be stress at all.


The kind of stress that likely comes to mind is negative and unhelpful stress, which occurs when you experience it for long periods. Negative stress can happen in a variety of situations, including having a high-stress job, being worried about your financial situation experiencing regular interpersonal conflict. You and your body need a break from these types of stressful situations, and when that doesn’t happen, you can begin to feel worn down. Stress can affect the way you think, act and feel - both emotionally and physically. It can even lead to long-term health effects like heart disease and obesity. That’s why it is important to recognize negative stress when it occurs. 


Behavioral Signs of Stress

Stress can affect the way you act, but you might not be the first to notice your stress-related behavioral changes. People close to you may comment on the fact that you are eating more or less than usual. They may notice that you have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoiding your responsibilities or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. They may also observe new nervous habits you have gained, like biting your nails or tapping your foot. It can be challenging to recognize stress-related behavioral changes in yourself because most of these actions are not ones that you consciously think about doing. Listen to what the people around you say, and note any new behaviors you have picked up.


Emotional Signs of Stress

Stress affects your emotions, too. If you are experiencing negative stress, you may find that you are isolating yourself from others even while feeling lonely. You might feel overwhelmed by situations that previously would not have bothered you. You may be frustrated with your circumstances. You probably have a hard time relaxing. While all of these feelings are normal, they are not pleasant. They can cause problems in your relationships and your professional life. If you find yourself experiencing emotions like these, know that it is not your fault and that there are stress management techniques that can help you. 


Physical Signs of Stress

Humans’ flight-or-fight response evolved to keep our ancestors from being eaten by the animals that preyed on early humans. For most of us, that is no longer an issue. Unfortunately, this evolutionary holdover has not adapted to modern-day life. It can treat shopping in a crowded store, commuting to work or accidentally deleting the wrong Excel spreadsheet the same way it used to treat seeing a leopard - despite the potential threat being extremely different. When you experience long-term stress, your flight-or-fight response is always active. Your body is tense and ready for action. Over time, it leads to headaches, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, shaky hands, gastrointestinal distress and even a compromised immune system


While all of these physical symptoms can be signs of stress, many of them can also indicate an underlying health condition. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned. Whether or not they attribute your symptoms to stress, a medical professional may have useful advice and can help put your mind at ease.  


Cognitive Signs of Stress

Negative stress affects every aspect of your life, including how you think. If you are experiencing cognitive signs of stress, your thoughts may race. You may find yourself worrying all the time. You might be forgetful, disorganized or have trouble focusing. Being stressed can also make it hard to be optimistic. It can be difficult to pin down thought patterns, but doing so can help you recognize when you are stressed and need a break. 


Massage Therapy Can Help

While reading through the different signs of stress, you may have noticed that they seem to feed into each other, making it difficult to manage even a few of your symptoms, let alone your stress as a whole. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of stress management activities and techniques available. Massage therapy is one of them. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy can help reduce stress and symptoms related to stress. Massage therapy may help you sleep better, reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and ease muscle pain and tension.  


Here at Extended Hands, we use Swedish massage as a basis for most of our massages, which can help you feel relaxed and energized. We incorporate other massage styles for additional benefits as needed. The well-being and comfort of our clients are important to us, so we emphasize trust, respect, integrity and honesty. We are here to improve your quality of life by helping you manage pain and stress. 


If you are interested in trying massage therapy to manage your stress, book an appointment with us today.