Everybody, at some point or another, will experience a stressful event. Eventually, the overwhelmed and anxious feeling will disappear, and life will resume as it did before the event. This is a normal occurrence for all of us. For people who experience chronic, long-term stress that never or rarely seems to pass, however, stress can be a killer. Literally.
Ongoing stress impacts our brains, our bodies and our behavior in ways that we will often attribute to some other malady or another. If you experience any of these symptoms often, then you may very well be enduring the effects of long-term stress.
Do you have headaches that never seem to completely go away? You might not be “just having a headache.” Stress headaches are incredibly common indicators of out-of-control stress, as well as:
- Muscle tension that you can’t seem to ease no matter how much you try to physically relax.
- Chest pain that can’t be explained by any other condition.
- Fatigue. Stress can keep a person up all night or make it hard to find restful sleep.
- Changes to your sex drive.
- Upset stomach symptoms, including heartburn in some sufferers.
This type of stress wreaks havoc on a person’s mind, making them feel and think things that they would never have if not for the constant, heavy stress that they’ve been enduring for however long. Some of the mental symptoms of ongoing stress are:
- Excessive worrying, perhaps even when you know that there is nothing to worry about.
- Restlessness and racing thoughts.
- Pessimism. Granted, you don’t have to be stressed to be a pessimist. But if you were a fairly happy and easy-going person prior to the stress you’re experiencing now, your newfound pessimism could be a symptom.
- Forgetfulness. You might forget even the simplest or most mundane of things.
- Sleeplessness due to worry or restlessness.
- An inability to focus or make sound decisions.
When we try to cope with unhealthy amounts of stress for a very long time, we are more likely to participate in unhealthy behaviors to cope with or attempt to alleviate it. This includes drinking excessively, drug abuse and self-harm. You may also partake in the following behaviors, perhaps without even realizing it:
- Eating far too little or far too much.
- Avoiding responsibilities and social obligations.
- Pacing, fidgeting, nail-biting, hair-twirling or skin-picking, as well as other nervous behaviors.
Stress is no joke. It can do serious damage to a person’s body as well as their overall feelings about life and themselves. If you cannot shake the overwhelmed feeling, the anxiety, the worry that comes with prolonged stress, don’t think that it’s just going to evaporate someday. The best thing that you can do is to talk to someone, a therapist or friend or relative, whomever, and ask for help when you need it.