Stress can hit you in the face like a prizefighter’s punch.
It can also creep up on you and steal your life like a pickpocket in a well-known Charles Dickens novel.
It can do both though. Firstly, creeping up slowly, eroding your life, before hitting you hard and knocking you out.
It’s better to spot the gradual effects early (and deal with them) than it is to wait for the sucker punch.
Here are some insidious signs to keep your eyes open for.
If you wake up satisfied with the feeling of a good night’s sleep, feeling happy with the day ahead and enjoying the moment before it starts then life is good.
Awaken with fear, doubt, or a sinking feeling with your brain racing then things might not be so great.
It’s the first recognisable thoughts upon waking that hint at whether things are healthy or not. Regularly waking up early, or through the night, with your brain already working on the day’s problems is a sign of stress.
Not Being Able to Sit Quietly
If you’ve never been able to sit quietly it might be a natural thing for you. People with neurodiversity often struggle to sit still. Conversely, a different neurodiversity profile may mean that you sit still for hours without noticing.
Look for the change in pattern. If you were able to sit quietly in the past, but you can’t sit quietly now, then what’s driving the change?
Does the pressure to be doing something build in you? Do you feel like you’re wasting time? Do you feel like you need a distraction? Have you always felt that way or have things changed for you?
If you’re losing weight without a conscious plan to do so, it may be a sign of stress. Being stressed uses energy. Energy can be used directly or indirectly. Just sitting and being stressed about something raises your heart rate and quickens your breath. Your muscles hold more tension than normal. This all uses energy.
Your stress may be causing you to move more. Being agitated or pacing around more uses energy. Stress can also lead you to undertake more activities to avoid quiet moments.
Conversely, if eating is a way for you to suppress your feelings and stress, then an increase in weight might become a symptom. This can also happen if stress paralyses you into inaction.
Laughing is good for us. It floods our bodies with all sorts of healthy chemicals.
If we become too serious, all the time, then we are holding the wrong kind of energy. We are denying our bodies healthy hormones.
When your brain becomes consumed by issues and problems it has less capacity for joy. Gradually your ability to see the funny side of things diminishes. This might be easier for others to see first.
Change in Relationships
You may notice that people who you used to enjoy the company of are not so visible. They back off as they don’t get the same friendly, funny or supportive person that they were used to. They may not know how to relax with a stressed-out you.
Maybe you are avoiding your friends because you find relaxing with them too difficult because your patience is low.
At work, your colleagues start avoiding you. When you walk into a meeting, eye contact is avoided. The mood is subtly different than it was in the past.
“Safe” Substances as a Prop
Turning to substances like drink, food, and painkillers might seem like a good idea.
You may think that one extra glass of wine in the evening won’t hurt. Perhaps one extra spoonful of ice cream or an extra chocolate treat can’t be that bad? Maybe you need some more paracetamol for the headaches that come more often.
If you find you’re increasingly relying on substances to feel better, then question why. Is it stress?
Buying Too Much Stuff
We’ve all bought stuff to make ourselves feel better. Doing this occasionally is only human. Doing it frequently may be due to poor impulse control, sometimes common in people with ADHD. Again, we’re looking for a change in habit. Has your need to feel better, or has your impulse control level changed? Did the benefit of your purchases feel different in the past?
It gets more stressful when you can’t afford the stuff, or if it causes you to feel guilty later. If your home gets cluttered with extra stuff, especially unused stuff, then that adds to your stress.
Spot the Changes
Thinking about these subtle signs listed above, mostly it’s the shifts in your behaviour or habits that indicate something has changed with your stress levels.
These could be early warning signs of stress.
Dealing with Stress
Start by acknowledging it could be a problem. Stress can be reduced or even resolved once you spot it. Prolonged stress may lead to burnout or even breakdown.
Be kind to yourself. What one thing can you change to reduce your stress levels? What one thing can you do to aid your stress recovery?
For help dealing with stress book a call for a free chat. Even a few minutes could be really helpful.