Stress Awareness: Subtle Signs of Stress You May Be Missing


These subtle signs of stress will help you identify if your problems result from too much cortisol, the stress hormone.
Man with subtle signs of stress

April 2022. This article is independently written by Shelby Golding. All opinions given are hers. Shelby has been certified as a personal trainer and nutritional specialist since 2007. In 2008, she found her passion for writing about these topics and hasn't looked back.

Man with subtle signs of stress

Some of the signs of stress are obvious. Anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, headaches, and exhaustion are common ones experienced by people with severe or chronic stress. But the signs of chronic stress are not always so obvious. About 50 percent of the US population lives with stress without being fully aware of it.
 
As the future becomes more and more uncertain, it's more important than ever before to learn to recognize the subtle signs of stress. Your stress levels influence health and happiness. According to a recent Yale study, stress even affects your DNA and will determine longevity. When you reduce stress, your risk of dying from heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression decreases. Keep reading to learn how to recognize stress to take charge of your health and increase your life span.

Subtle Signs of Stress

These subtle signs are only a few indications that you are stressed out. Pay attention the next time your body gives you a signal because it may be a symptom of a major problem.

1. Trouble Concentrating


If you are having a hard time focusing your attention, stress might be the cause. The irony is that stress improves concentration temporarily as adrenaline courses through the bloodstream, making you hyperaware of your surroundings. However, long-term exposure to the stress hormone cortisol makes you irritable and exhausted. As a result, you may have trouble sleeping through the night, and it leaves you struggling to concentrate on everything but the most menial of tasks.
 
If you find yourself staring off into space when you need to be working, you might be suffering from stress. Take ten minutes out of your day to meditate or go for a short walk so that you can relieve some of the stress and refocus your attention.

2. Poor Sleep Quality

Poor Sleep Quality from stress

Poor sleep is a cornerstone of chronic stress. Your thoughts are restless, and you might have trouble falling or staying asleep. Unfortunately, stress and sleep have a symbiotic relationship. Your body uses your time asleep to inhibit cortisol release. So without sleep, cortisol levels steadily increase, which only exacerbates and increases your stress.
 
Breaking the stress-sleep cycle requires a routine. You will be tempted to sleep in or take a nap because you are so exhausted from not sleeping through the night. But this response only worsens the problem. Instead, stick to a regular wake-up and bedtime to get your sleep schedule back on track.

3. Upset Stomach

Stress throws you into the sympathetic fight-or-flight part of the nervous system. In theory, your body will stay in fight-or-flight until the threat has passed. However, in reality, people with chronic stress are constantly bombarded by stress hormones and can never relax. This level of stress means that their body spends very little time in the parasympathetic rest-and-digest part of the nervous system.
 
The parasympathetic system is responsible for behind-the-scenes activities like digestion and waste elimination. Over time, your body's inability to digest can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and an inability to absorb nutrients.

4. Irregular Cycle Length

For women, a regular menstruation cycle is an indication of health. Cortisol suppresses the creation of sex hormones leading to irregular periods or no period at all. It can even affect your sex drive. You may have already noticed that when you are stressed, your period is heavier or lighter, comes early, or arrives late!
 
Unfortunately, women on contraceptives might not be able to use this subtle sign of stress to diagnose their cortisol levels. Especially since many modern contraceptives get rid of your period altogether.

 5. Tooth or Jaw Pain

Many people unconsciously clench their jaws when they are stressed. One of the well-known causes of temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) is high-stress levels. If you are experiencing tooth or jaw pain, especially in the hours after you wake up, it could be due to clenching. Most people do not realize they are clenching as the jaw pain comes out of nowhere.
 
Over time, a clenching habit can lead to worn or cracked teeth, so you must address it early. Mouthguards are a popular choice for people who grind their teeth in their sleep. In addition, acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic can help you deal with the consequences of long-term grinding and clenching.

6. Poor Short-Term Memory

Memory and learning require a calm mind. When you are stressed, your brain has difficulty creating short-term memories and turning short-term memories into long-term ones. Stress also affects the quality of your memory. You may think you remember something only to find that the memory isn't as clear as you thought.
 
Because the stress response is related to survival, the only memories the brain is prepared to make are the necessary ones. Advanced learning only happens when you do not feel threatened. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, a well-known technique for dealing with poor short-term memory. You can use it to remember more details and reduce overall stress.

7. Sore Muscles

A natural result of stress is tightness, soreness, and pain in the muscles. When adrenaline and cortisol are released into the system, they tense the muscles up to protect them from whatever is threatening you. Over time, the tension builds up, resulting in sore muscles. Common locations for muscle soreness are the neck, back, shoulders, and hips.
 
Tension needs to be removed regularly to prevent muscle pain. Otherwise, it turns into a bigger problem as the pain becomes chronic. One of the easiest ways to relieve tight muscles is to take ten deep breaths into the belly.

Practice Consciousness and Awareness

Body consciousness and awareness are crucial skills to help you identify the subtle signs of stress. So often, we ignore fatigue, illness, a scratchy throat, or an upset stomach because we are busy and do not have time to address them. But to find out if your symptoms are due to stress, you need to develop your awareness and pay attention when these symptoms arise.
 
And when you notice symptoms like pain, don’t ignore them. Instead, use your Kailo pain patch near the site of pain and enjoy a deep, stress-relieving breath. A recent clinical study showed that Kailo is more effective than other prescription and over the counter medications, with no side effects!
 
Disclaimer: Kailo should not be used if you have a pacemaker or if you are pregnant. Always consult your doctor or health care professional before using Kailo.

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