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Signs of Stress

By Brooke Huffman, ND

This is a stressful time of year for many people. Sometimes we know we are stressed like it knocked us over the head. Other times stress can build up, like drops of water in a glass that slowly fill it to the brim. When this slow brewing stress is in our lives, it can be difficult to recognize. While the effects of stress can be many and varied, here is a short list of the most common signs of stress:

Fatigue and insomnia: Do you often find yourself wondering "why am I so tired"? Do you have a midday energy slump? Stress may be to blame here. When stress is high it may change the quality of our sleep, and may even make it difficult for us to get the quantity of sleep we need. The ironic thing is that sleep is what we most need to recover from stress! In this way, a lack of sleep is a double-whammy. Even when we get enough sleep, we may be commonly fatigued if we live under high stress.

Brain fog, forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating: After we have been under stress for a long period of time, we may start to feel the effects on our ability to think. If you struggle with attention or focus, don't just chalk it up to the aging process. That "head in a cloud" feeling may be a sign you've been dealing with stress for too long.

Headache, neck or jaw pain: With no where else to go, stress can start to build up in our physical body. Think of it like an increase in pressure: you need to let off some of the steam! Each individual holds stress in the body in different ways. The most common areas to hold stress are the head, face and neck. Do you find yourself clenching your teeth? Do you have a headache that often comes on later in the day? These may be signs that you need to relieve stress.

Weight change or difficulty losing weight: If you have difficulty losing weight despite your efforts, or conversely find that you are losing weight without even trying, it may be that stress is a factor. The reasons behind this can vary however, and it may take some detective work to suss out your individual factors. If you have gained weight, are you eating more due to stress? Or making less healthy food choices, perhaps? Weight gain may also be due to your stress hormones being high, which is (unfortunately!) a signal to the body to hold on to fat cells. In this case weight loss may be very difficult. If you have a problem with unintentional weight loss, the role of stress can be similarly complicated.

Depression, anxiety or mood swings: While mood swings are a normal part of life, they can also be a sign that a person is bearing too large a burden. Do you find yourself uninterested in activities you used to enjoy? Do you have trouble finding motivation? Do you sometimes feel panic, or that you want to run away from it all? If you feel you have been struggling with mood more than you should, you likely need to address your stress.

To some extent, stress is an inevitable part of a modern life. The good news is that with the right support and tools, the effects of stress can be far less. Talk with your naturopathic doctor today about the multitude of options you have for managing and reducing stress.