While we wish it weren’t so, stress is inevitable — we all experience it. It’s actually a normal emotion; our body is designed to experience and react to stress. In small amounts, it can even be healthy. But if you’re experiencing stress on the regular (like one-third of adults), that’s when problems arise. Chronic, unrelenting stress is not normal — and as you can imagine, it’s not good for us, either! While we can’t always prevent stress from occurring, there are so many ways to reduce our stress levels and manage how we respond to stressors. But, in order to do that, we have to know what’s stressing us out! And while some sources of stress are downright obvious, others are sneaky — you may not even know you’re stressed.
So, in honor of Stress Awareness Day, we’re sharing major red flags to look out for. If these warning signs of too much stress sound all too familiar, know you’re not alone. That said, chronic stress isn’t something to be taken lightly. In addition to ramping up your stress-management and self-care routine with these hacks, speaking with a doctor or medical professional is always a good idea. When unaddressed, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health and well-being. So, it’s better to get ahead of it!
10 Sneaky Signs of Stress & Simple Hacks to Stop It In Its Tracks
#1 You’re Abnormally Fatigued
There’s the physical fatigue you feel after a grueling workout, and then there’s the mental fatigue you feel from extreme stress. If you’re constantly experiencing the latter, stress management is a must. Stress-related fatigue is a major red flag. If this has been an ongoing issue, check in with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions. Once you’ve ruled out any serious conditions, the next best thing is to check in with your sleep routine!
The Stress Solution: Build a Consistent Evening Routine
If you’re constantly fatigued, securing a solid sleep schedule is the best thing you can do to benefit your mind and your body. And once you build a consistent sleep schedule, try to stick with it — your body likes routine! Power down your electronics a few hours before bed, add in a simple stretch routine to promote relaxation and go to sleep at the same time every night. Pick a few healthy sleep habits that resonate with you, and start from there. Once that feels manageable, continue building!
Need a little support getting started? Try our 14-Day Sleep Challenge!
#2 Anxiety Is Keeping You Up At Night
Your head hits the pillow, and bam — a sea of anxious thoughts flood your brain. Immediately, you start thinking about that lingering work deadline, that fight with your partner, and the overdue stack of bills you’ve been avoiding. Before you know it, you’re in a cyclical cycle of negative thoughts, imagining the “what if’s” and worst possible case scenario for any and every event. If this sounds like you, you’re probably way too stressed.
The Stress Solution: Meditation
To quiet your mind and help you eliminate worrisome thoughts, try a simple sleep meditation. Meditation has been shown to soothe symptoms of anxiety, improve sleep quality, and even lower cortisol.
Here are some FitOn sleep meditations to consider:
#3 You’re Constantly Coming Down With Something
If it feels like you’re constantly catching a cold or coming down with something, stress might be to blame. Yep, prolonged stress can make you sick — literally. According to research, chronic stress can weaken our immune system.
The Stress Solution: Build Your Defenses with Immune Supporting Foods
Loading up your diet with immune-supporting foods can both reduce symptoms of sickness and prevent pathogens from invading your body in the first place. To strengthen your immune system, reach for foods like citrus, turmeric, garlic, ginger, broccoli, and yogurt. These foods are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C and gut-healthy probiotics.
RELATED: 6 Must-Try Immune-Supporting Foods (+ 3 Recipes)
#4 Your Digestion is A Mess
When under high amounts of stress, your body goes into protection mode (i.e., fight or flight) and begins to prepare for “battle” by conserving its energy stores. This means any processes that aren’t critical to survival (such as digestion) get shut down. No wonder you’re bloated and not digesting your food!
The Stress Solution: Consider Probiotics
ICYDK, the gut, and the brain are directly connected. So, load up on probiotic-rich foods! Not only will you improve your gut health, but you’ll also support your stress. Probiotic, prebiotic, and fiber-rich foods such as yogurt, kimchi, oats, and asparagus are great options.
Need some recipe inspo? Try this Gut-Booster Nourish Bowl.
- ½ head cauliflower, cut into florets
- ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt & black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups arugula
- 4 tbsp sauerkraut
- 1 salmon filet, cooked
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp filtered water
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cumin
Step #1: Start by preheating the oven to 180°C or 350°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Step #2: Place the cauliflower, onion, and sweet potato cubes on the baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Step #3: Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
Step #4: Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, tahini, water, garlic powder, turmeric, and cumin together. Add more or less water until the dressing reaches your desired consistency.
Step #5: To serve, divide the arugula between two bowls and top with the roasted vegetables, sauerkraut, and cooked shredded salmon.
Step #6: Drizzle with dressing and garnish with hemp seeds. Serve and enjoy!
RELATED: The Best Foods For a Healthier Gut According to an RD
#5 *Everything* Sets You Off
We all have those days where we’re tired, hangry, and maybe a little more edgy than normal. But if this is becoming a regular occurrence, it’s probably a sneaky sign that you’re too stressed. Don’t feel bad, though. It’s to be expected if you’re living in a constant state of fight or flight! When our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, it triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that comes with sneaky side effects — irritability being one of them.
The Stress Solution: Pause & Breathe
When tension is high, and you’re about to blow (we’ve all been there), take a few minutes to simply breathe. Yes, breathing is a simple (science-backed) solution to reducing anger, stress, and tension. The best part? It works instantly and can be done anytime, anywhere.
Try this 5-minute FitOn Grounding Breath breathing exercise with Rachel Ruth.
#6 …Or Makes You Want to Cry
If you’re constantly on the verge of tears, it’s likely a sign you’re too stressed. While crying is a normal and healthy emotion, unexplained or uncontrollable water works can be indicative of extreme mental and physical exhaustion (i.e., burnout and stress).
The Stress Solution: Try a New Hobby
When things feel heavy and stressful, finding something new and exciting can be a simple solution to improving our health and happiness. Maybe it’s signing up for a cooking class, joining a new workout studio, or simply embracing the stress-busting benefits of nature and going on a hike! The takeaway? Find something new that brings you joy and make it a regular part of your routine.
#7 You’re Isolating From Friends & Family
When facing extreme bouts of stress, it’s common to want to isolate yourself from family and loved ones — especially if you’ve been told “you’ll be fine” or to “cheer up.” If you feel misunderstood, lonely, or self-conscious, know there are so many people willing and ready to support you. While isolating may feel comforting, it will only exacerbate the stress response. What you really need is connection.
The Stress Solution: Lean on Community
Asking for support can seem tough and uncomfortable, but it will make you feel so much better, and it’s easier than you think. Call that friend or family member, join a support group or local community, and check in with your doctor or therapist. Whatever you do, don’t bear the burden alone.
#8 You’re Experiencing Brain Fog
If you constantly misplace your keys, struggle to focus, and feel as though your head is in the clouds, it may be a sneaky sign of prolonged stress. According to research, chronic stress is directly linked to cognitive function. The good news? Managing stress can protect your brain from damage.
The Stress Solution: Add Brain-Boosting Foods To Your Diet
One of the best ways to preventatively protect your brain? Load up your diet with brain-boosting nutrients like omega-3s and antioxidants! Think: foods like salmon, berries, and dark leafy greens.
Need some meal inspo? Balance your blood sugar and load up on brain-supportive fats with this 4-Ingredient Avocado Baked Egg recipe. It’s full of protein and makes a yummy breakfast or quick and easy snack!
- 2 eggs
- 1 avocado
- ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper
- sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Step #1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Step #2: Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out 1-2 spoonfuls of avocado to create a bigger whole. You need the whole egg to fit inside. Keep that avocado — you can serve it on the side.
Step #3: Place the avocado in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully break the egg into the avocado, and then season with a bit more salt and pepper, as well as the red pepper flakes.
Step #4: Bake for 12-14 minutes until egg whites are set but yolks are still runny. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Add all your favorite toppings and enjoy!
RELATED: The Best Snacks to Beat Mid-Day Brain Fog
#9 You Feel Sore and Achy
If your low back is throbbing, your neck is hard as a rock, and your shoulders are slumped and strained, consider whether stress is the source. When we’re stressed, we tend to store a lot of emotion and tension in our muscles — think of it as our body’s physical defense against pain and trauma. If unrelenting, not only will your muscles remain sore and achy, but it could also put you at risk for muscle atrophy and injury.
The Stress Solution: Stretch It Out
Whether it’s grounding down with yoga, pressing play on a FitOn mobility exercise, or simply squeezing a few simple stretches into the workday, make sure you stretch it out and address those sore, achy muscles.
Here are some FitOn stretches to help you get started:
- Looking for a grounding flow? Try this Yin Yoga Bliss with Vytas
- Holding tension in your neck and shoulders? Try this Neck & Trap Mobility with Kelly Starrett from The Ready State
- Need a quick and effective desk stretch? Release tension in four minutes with this Short Office Stretch
#10 You’re Skipping Your Workouts
If you find yourself skipping your scheduled sweat sesh, check in with your body. Are you really too tired or too sore to work out, or are you actually just stressed? Don’t get us wrong, rest days are important. But there’s a difference between scheduled recovery days and a stress-induced skip.
The Stress Solution: Get Moving (Even Just For 5 Minutes)
It might sound counterintuitive, but when you’re stressed and tired, sometimes movement is the best medicine! When you exercise, not only do you increase the release of feel-good hormones that help boost your mood, but you’re also getting your blood flowing, which circulates oxygen and helps boost energy. It doesn’t need to be anything lengthy or strenuous, either. In fact, less is often more. A simple walk, stretch, yoga flow, or low-intensity bodyweight workout will do the trick! Download the FitOn app and find something that feels good for you.
Stop Sneaky Stress in Its Tracks
While you can’t always eliminate stress, you can certainly change the way your body responds to it. Simple stress hacks like prioritizing movement, calling on community, and boosting your intake of brain-supporting nutrients can do wonders for your mind and body. Add these lifestyle tips to your routine and stop stress before it stops you.
If you’re experiencing these red flag symptoms and sneaky sources of stress, talk to your doctor, therapist, or a medical professional. The sooner you seek support, the sooner you’ll see improvements in your mental and physical health.