Closeup of sad young Asian woman at cafe leaning head on clasped hands and staring into vacancy as she experiences stress.

Identifying the key signs of stress

Stress significantly impacts wellbeing. 

Your relationships can suffer from your neglect, irritability and exhaustion.

It’s hard to concentrate, which leads to forgetfulness and difficulty being in the present moment.

Your health can be affected by poor lifestyle habits, while chronic stress impacts sleep and causes weight gain.

And severe cases of stress can cause relationships to completely break down, and addictions and/or depression can develop.

However, despite the significant impact stress has on wellbeing, it is commonly ignored because:

  • Stress is normalised in our culture and viewed as part and parcel to modern life.
  • Expectations are set high in many work cultures, often with subtle messaging of “if you don’t do it, someone else will”.
  • And, the high cost of living puts people under pressure to earn more in hope of attaining freedom from high overhead costs (e.g. rent) or debt and loans.

Interestingly, stress is also not recognised as a mental health “disorder” unless the stress has been specifically triggered by an event, significant change or trauma. This eliminates half the population’s experience of stress caused by ongoing issues related to lifestyle, work and family pressures. This means many people living with stress may struggle to see their stress as a “problem” worth seeking help for.

If stress was acknowledged as a problem in our society, we no doubt would be attuned to key signs of stress and when to seek help.

So, what are the key signs of stress?

  • Difficulty switching off.
    You may be stressed if you struggle to switch off from thoughts related to a stressful situation.
  • Frequently feeling overwhelmed and/or irritable.
    For example, you may be triggered by small things that cause you to become quickly overwhelmed or angry. Or, you may experience a general irritability and find yourself snapping inappropriately at loved ones or strangers.
  • Headaches or body tension.
    Stress causes muscular tension, which can lead to headaches, and back and shoulder aches.
  • Difficulty prioritising self-care.
    Often when you are stressed, self-care goes out the window. For example, you may skips meals or eat convenient meals rather than nutritious meals. You may also struggle to maintain adequate sleep, either experiencing disturbed sleep or being distracted by your stressful situation during your typical sleep hours. You may also ditch your exercise routine.
  • Forgetfulness and mistakes.
    Preoccupation with thoughts related to a stressful situation can cause significant distraction. For example, you may forget to turn off at your exit on the highway or frequently forget your lunch at home.
  • Upset stomach.
    Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system responsible for a ‘fight or flight’ response. When this system is hyper-active, your digestive system is deprived of adequate blood flow, which can cause gut issues. For example, it’s common with stress to lose your appetite or to experience a sore stomach or diarrhoea.
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism or rejection.
    Stress can make you prone to feeling sensitive to others communication or actions towards you. For example, a friend may feedback something fairly benign to you or tease you in a light-hearted way, and you may find yourself feeling really hurt and angry towards them.

Man with hands on his face looking up as he experiences stress

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with stress?

Out team of Melbourne-based psychologists are well-trained and skilled in therapies and techniques for reducing stress, such as Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapies.
We are particularly passionate about helping individuals overcome work anxiety & stress, stress related to adjustment to change and parenting stress.
Contact us today if you would like to be matched to our psychologists skilled in stress. Or, learn more about what perpetuates stress in blog post, Five Reasons You may be Stressed and how to reduce stress with some helpful tips in blog post, Top 3 Tips to Reducing Stress.