Mental and Physical Symptoms of Stress

stress handwritten text on white printer paper
Expert tips on how to identify – and deal with – stress.

by Chimere G. Holmes, LPC, Mental Health Editor

How do we identify stress? Before penning this piece, I found myself reflecting on my own stress levels while sprawled out on my acupuncturist’s table. As I soaked in the incredible treatment, I realized that the week prior ushered in an increased amount of stress in several areas of my life. The funny thing about stress is that it can be affecting our physical health and we do not always realize it. Stress builds over time. It can come from work, relationships, financial pressures, and anything else that challenges our well-being.

Stress is a natural feeling we all experience from time to time. But when there are too many stressors, our mental and physical health can be undermined. According to Forbes, close to 190 million people have reported significantly higher levels of stress over the past two years. Stress affects the body, mind, emotions, and our behaviors. If left unchecked, high levels of stress can lead to chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, bad sleep hygiene and diabetes.  

Identifying sources of stress is vital. We have to understand what burdens us in order to find healthy coping skills to combat it. This list indicates ways that stress impacts our minds, bodies, and behaviors. Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

grayscale photo of woman in white collared shirt

Our bodies keep the score: Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches & migraines  
  • Muscle tension  
  • Aches/soreness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Decreased libido 
  • GI problems  
  • Interrupted sleep 
  • Tightness in chest  
adult dark depressed face

Feeling moody?  Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety 
  • Feeling restless and keyed up 
  • Decrease in motivation  
  • Irritability 
  • Sadness 
  • Low mood 
  •  Feeling overwhelmed  
  •  Lack of motivation  
  •  Inattention   
  •  Anger
man and woman feeling worried

Actions speak louder than words: Behavioral Symptoms

  • Angry outbursts  
  • Drug & alcohol misuse
  • Tobacco misuse 
  • Socially isolating 
  • Overeating 
  • Undereating  
  • Decrease in physical activity  

So, what can we do about it? Research shows that taking certain steps to proactively manage your stress can have many health benefits. Getting regular physical exercise is a great way to manage stress. Cultivating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, massage, yoga, and acupuncture are incredibly relaxing. It is also beneficial to keep a good sense of humor and look for levity day-to-day to avoid monotony. Intentionally cultivating quality time with friends and loved ones is a guaranteed way to de-stress.

Excessive amounts of screentime, doom scrolling your newsfeeds, and one too many Netflix binges or video games could be adding to your overall stress levels. It is best to manage these tech temptations with balance and an active lifestyle. If you find that your stress symptoms persist, despite making several concentrated attempts to control them, you may need to see your primary care physician and/or a mental health professional to assess for other factors and causes.

When my acupuncture appointment was over, I felt relaxed and more grounded. It is surprising what 45-minutes of wellness can do for the mind, heart, and body. I hope you will take a moment this month to find something revitalizing to help you shed some of your stress and tap into your Zen. Remember you deserve to feel well.

Want more mental health advice from Rev. Holmes? Check out “Feeling Emotional Could Be A Sign Of Strength,” “How To Deal With In-laws,” and “How To Fight With Your Man (Or Woman).”


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Main Line Tonight is a new media network covering news, wellness, dining and style in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

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