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Signs of stress

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WorkStress.jpgStress is expressed in many different ways. Usually there are some subtle (or obvious) signs that you are out of balance. When you ignore these signs they tend to become more exaggerated, to the extent that you will become physically ill if you fail to take prompt and preventative action.

Here is a comprehensive list of the various symptoms you can experience:

Physical signs

  • Excess weight for your age and height, loss of weight or weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Heart throbbing, tightness across the chest, shortness of breath or fast breathing
  • Chronic diarrhoea or constipation
  • Chronic illnesses, headaches and migraines
  • Inability to sleep, a feeling of constant fatigue
  • A need for painkillers or some other daily medication
  • Muscle spasms and twitches
  • A feeling of fullness although you have not eaten
  • Knot on the stomach and/or constant dry mouth
  • A tendency to faint or feel nauseous
  • Excessive nervous energy that prevents you from sitting still and relaxing

Mental signs

  • A constant feeling of uneasiness
  • Constant irritability with the family and work colleagues, thoughts of lashing out at others
  • Boredom with life
  • A recurring feeling of being unable to cope with life
  • Anxiety about money
  • Morbid fear of disease, especially cancer and heart disease
  • Fear of death
  • Confusion and inability to think “straight”, poor memory, indecision and preoccupied,
  • Nightmares and bad dreams
  • A sense of suppressed anger, cynicism and negativity
  • An inability to have a good laugh
  • A feeling of being rejected by your family, feeling that you can’t discuss your problems with anyone
  • Reluctance to take a holiday


  • Feelings of tension and anxiety
  • Fear that something is going to happen
  • Guilt, panic attacks, feelings of fear and being scared
  • Inability to control emotions
  • On-going anger, intense anger or rage, quick to lose temper
  • Feeling emotionally numb, unable to identify feeling and emotions
  • Depression, inability to enjoy life or activities, feeling of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Irritability, distrust of others, over-sensitivity


  • Slow speech or very fast speech
  • Outbursts, get frights easily, jumpy
  • Withdrawal from others or aggressive behaviour toward others
  • Not taking care of physical appearance or hygiene
  • Loss of sexual appetite
  • Tendency to have accidents,
  • Inability to rest or sit still, constant fidgeting, out of the ordinary behaviour
  • Excessive drinking, loss of appetite or a desire to eat as soon as a problem arises
  • Inability to cry or a tendency to burst into tears easily

Interim actions you can take

  1. If your stress levels are very high your initial focus needs to be take care of your body: ensure that you get enough sleep and rest and eat healthily. Cut out all junk food, alcohol, coffee. Eat more fruit, vegetables and non-fattening meals and snacks.  Unhealthy substances break down your immune system and over time this will drain your body and lead to definite health problems.
  2. If you have slightly high stress levels, then you need to identify those areas that are creating the most stress. Take a critical look at all the activities you are doing by keeping a daily diary or at the end of the day doing a 5 minute evaluation of those aspects that “stole” your time or drained your energy. In fact these 5 minute “reflections” every day will provide you with quite a bit of insight into what is happening with your time. Take 1 step then to improve the situation and implement that change immediately.
  3. Identify some weekend activity that you enjoy and start to introduce that. It may be something that you prefer to do on your own as opposed to with the family. Just negotiate some time for yourself. Or alternatively do try some new outdoor activity with your family.

Go back to the Stress and Depression category for articles that cover the major sources of stress, the role of perception in stress and some more stress management techniques.

Article written by: Linda Germishuizen, Executive, Career and Life Coach. Email: linda@sunyata.so.za

Copyright (c) 2016, the credited author
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