Listen. Stress is unavoidable. It’s part of daily living and it happens to all of us. In fact, stress is essential for helping us live our best lives. It protects us and alerts us to what needs our attention. The problems come in when we don’t properly use stress to our advantage…or when we don’t recognize the symptoms of stress in the first place. We’re all familiar with the stress responses of an increased heart rate and sweaty palms and armpits. Here are some of the less obvious signs that our bodies give us to let us know we’re experiencing stress.
Research suggests that high levels of daily stress is associated with gastrointestinal problems for many women. In fact, several months ago, I received a call from a friend who had a high stakes admissions interview to her dream graduate school. I was super excited to hear the good news and surprised to hear her say, “I think I’m going to vomit.” Because stomach problems can be caused by so many things, it’s often overlooked as a symptom of stress. So, after talking with my friend about the opportunity that lay before her, I reassured her that what she was experiencing was likely a normal reaction to the stress that she was enduring.
Frequent Restroom Breaks
Remember that stress is the body’s way of defending itself against threats. It’s an evolutionary defense mechanism that can’t distinguish between the very real threat of a lion in the wild and a perceived threat of a tight deadline or high-stakes interview. When the body is threatened, the last thing you have time for is controlling the bladder. So, when the body is experiencing stress, the bladder can become more sensitive, leading to frequent bathroom breaks, even if the bladder isn’t particularly full. Some people even experience the inability to go to the bathroom when they are stressed. Again, stress diverts energy from the less essential control of the bladder to the more important thing that is causing you stress.
Neck Pain and Headaches.
High levels of stress can literally be a pain in the neck! Many people clench their jaws or tighten the muscles in the upper body in response to stress, causing soreness and pain. Stress can also have the unsettling effect of worsening any neck and shoulder pain that you already have. Because neck pain, headaches, and tight shoulders can be caused by anything from sleeping in an odd position the night before to sitting at a desk for too long, they are often overlooked as symptoms of stress.
The next time you experience any of these signs of stress, stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If you realize that school and obligations with work, family, and friends have you experiencing more stress than usual, try these stress relieving techniques.
What are some other ways that your body lets you know that you are experiencing stress? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.