Five Signs You are Carrying a lot of Stress
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed! There are so many ways that stress manifests when you are carrying a lot of it, and it can sometimes be difficult to recognise that the signs are pointing to stress. So I’m going to cut right to the chase with five signs that you are carrying a lot of stress.
1. You’re Struggling to Sleep
Sometimes when we’re stressed we have so much going on mentally and emotionally that it sends our minds into overdrive. That overdrive can make it harder to wind down, relax, and rest. It’s a huge tell-tale sign that you are carrying stress if you are struggling to sleep. This can take a lot of forms – maybe you are tired and it is easy to get into bed and get comfortable, but you struggle to drift off to sleep. Maybe you are able to get to the point where you are drifting asleep, but then your mind directs you to all of the things that you need to do, or that you have to remember. Or maybe you are staring at your screen because you want to tire yourself out. It may not seem that way at first because maybe you are filling that wind-down time with screen time or mindless scrolling, but it is likely your stress compelling you to “zone out” so it is easier to relax.
You can address sleep struggles in a number of ways. Following a set routine is helpful, and making sure you’re winding down at the same time everyday. Try setting a “wind down” reminder on your devices to give yourself a reminder. Also getting enough exercise and eating well can help you sleep better and manage your stress levels.
2. You Have Brain Fog
Brain fog is something that impacts your ability to concentrate. It is a combination of confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of mental clarity and focus, and is sometimes called “mental fatigue.” When you are carrying a lot of stress, your mind is unlikely to be functioning at its best. Some of the stressors that could impact your mental clarity are being overworked, struggling to sleep, or a significant event or holiday. Regardless of the type of stress that you are experiencing, brain fog can be one of the many physical ways that your stress manifests.
Setting clear boundaries for yourself around your workload, and your mental and emotional space can lighten the load and reduce the likelihood of stress-related brain fog. It is important to be mindful that brain fog, like difficulty sleeping, can be a symptom of other things too, so if you are experiencing brain fog at any stage, you should take those cues from your body seriously – and if your brain fog lasts for a long time, or is frequent, that you may need to check in with your doctor.
3. You are Struggling to Prioritize or Do Tasks
How often have you found yourself unable to wrap your head around what you need to do when you’re stressed? Sometimes stress can compound as you try to prioritize tasks, and then actually do them if you are already stressed out. This is tied closely to having brain fog because your mental clarity would otherwise be the driving force behind you being able to organize yourself and prioritize tasks.
You may alternatively find it easy to plan all of the things that you need to do, but difficult to actually do them. Deflecting your attention from the task to planning the task can be a sign that you are carrying stress around having to get things done.
The easiest way to tackled your tasks is just to start them. There is no reason why you need to feel like you have to have them perfectly planned out, or even done absolutely perfectly. When you start a task, no matter how big, or begin chipping away at your list of things to do (no matter how long), you’ll find that the list or tasks are likely not as overwhelming as they may have first seemed.
It’s also ok to move through things at your own pace (and if you have deadlines, it is ok to as for help to work toward them)!
4. You’re Irritable
A tell-tale sign of carrying a lot of stress is irritability. It may not even be directly related to the thing that you are stressed about! You may be stressed about something at work, and that makes you irritable about the way that the pillows are arranged on your bed. When you are carryinng stress, your ability to manage your mental and emotional composure is reduced.
Maybe you have found that you are annoyed that the dishes aren’t put away the way that you like it, or that there is too much noise around you when you are trying to work. Being irritable can be the result of being tired, overworked, or being mentally or emotionally exhausted. These things are all indications that you are carrying stress in an area of your life.
You can manage your irritability in a number of ways. One of the easiest ways of doing so is to acknowledge that you are likely stressed about something. It is normal to get irritable when you are overwhelmed, and acknowledging that your irritability is tied to something can help you work through it.
5. You’re Feeling Physically Tired
Stress affects your body. Your whole body carries the burden when you are carrying stress. It may seem like your mind is the most affected, but your whole body ends up carrying the stress. Like sleeplessness, you may find that your body is experiencing fatigue, similar to how you may feel after excessive exercise. It’s not that you are wanting to sleep, but your body is just exhausted from the burden of the stress you are carrying. It may manifest in tension in particular parts of your body – your shoulders, back, or neck. Depending on the level of stress you are feeling, you may find yourself wanting to sit or lie down and zone out in order to recharge.
When your body is trying to tell you something, the best you can do is listen to it. If you find yourself physically tired when you are not engaging in extra exercise, then it is your body’s way of telling you that something is off. It may be a matter of you needing to seize control and just sit down, or take a nap. I know that’s easier said than done, but it is important to remember that you only get one body, and you have to live in it 24/7. If you’re carrying stress about work, friendships, family, chores or anything else in your life, it may help to ask yourself how important those things are in relation to your physical, mental and emotional health.
So what should you do when you notice these signs?
Keep in mind that these signs don’t necessarily just mean that you are stressed! It is important to listen to your body, because these things could be a combination of stress and other factors that are impacting your life.
If you have the ability to, reach out to somebody that can help you navigate your stress. It may be a friend or family member that can help to lighten the load, or you may take the step to see a professional to find strategies to manage your stress.
Remember: stress manifests in so many ways, so even if you are not showing some of these signs in a significant way, it could be a good opportunity to take stock and think about the ways that you might carry stress. What does your body say to you when you are stressed and how might you take back some control for yourself?