8 signs of too much stress

Is stress harming your body and mind? Watch for these symptoms.

Stressed woman sits with her head in her hands

Updated on May 22, 2024.

Everyone has stress. It’s your body's reaction to thoughts or events that make you feel threatened. When you feel like you are in danger, your body releases natural chemicals called hormones. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol. They help your body prepare for an emergency.

In small amounts, stress can be good. It can help you perform your best in tough situations. But when you have a lot of stress over a long period of time—and high levels of adrenaline and cortisol—it can be bad for your body and mind. Here's how to tell if you've got too much stress—and what to do about it.

You’re crying, have mood swings, and no energy

Stress can affect your emotions and mood. It can make it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. It can cause your mood to change. It can also make you feel like you have no energy.

Stress can cause these symptoms, but other issues can, too. So it’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider (HCP) to make sure that your symptoms are really caused by stress and not by another health issue.

You’ve got pain and problems with your skin and digestion

Sometimes stress can make you feel sick. It might cause pain in your back, neck, chest, or head. It might cause bumps on your skin called hives. You might have a hard time breathing. You might even have a stomachache or problems going to the bathroom.

If being stressed out all the time causes physical problems like these, you should see an HCP. When these issues continue, it can cause long-term problems. These may affect your life and cause you to miss work or time with your family. You may have to see an HCP many more times as a result.

You’ve got anxiety, worry, and guilt

Sometimes having too much stress can cause you to feel anxious. When you feel anxious all the time, it’s called an anxiety disorder. You might feel restless and worried all the time.

If your anxiety has lasted more than six months, you could have an anxiety disorder. Talk to an HCP. They may recommend that you speak to a mental health professional, like a therapist. 

You feel irritated, angry, and frustrated

What would you do if your child accidentally spills their juice at breakfast? If you react with anger and frustration, it could be because you have too much stress in your life.

Some people respond to stress by getting angry, irritable, or frustrated. Anger is normal. Everyone feels it sometimes. But if your anger is out of control, it can hurt your relationships, your health, and your overall state of mind.

Talk to an HCP or a therapist. They may be able to help you lower your stress level and reduce your anger levels, too.

You feel depressed

Stress can put you in a bad mood or make your temper flare. If you have lots of stress for a long time, it can also lead to depression. This means that you feel sad and hopeless most of the time. If you have been depressed before, having a lot of stress can cause your depression to come back.

Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad most of the time
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Changes in your appetite (how much you want to eat)
  • Feeling worthless
  • Not being interested in things you used to like
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling angry
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Showing reckless behavior, like abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide

If you think you might be depressed, seek help from an HCP right away. If you feel like you might hurt yourself, call, text, or chat 988 to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

You feel lonely or isolated from others

Feeling stressed can cause you to withdraw from others. Sometimes being alone is nice. But isolation is not the best way to deal with stress.

If you find that you are spending so much time alone that you feel lonely or cut off from others, it's time to seek help from people you trust. Talking to someone about your problems and feeling their support can help reduce stress and loneliness. Don't be afraid to turn to others for help. You might reach out to friends, family, a support group, or a therapist as part of your plan to relieve stress. It’s important to try to connect with others.

You are having trouble sleeping

Sleep gives you energy so you can better manage your day. But when are feeling very stressed, it can be hard to get good rest.

When you don’t sleep, that can increase your stress even more. What’s a good way to relieve stress and also help you sleep better? Exercise.

Try to exercise three to five times each week. Try a combination of cardio (like walking or jogging) with strength training (like lifting weights or doing push-ups). Doing some stretching exercise like yoga is useful, too. Some other ways to sleep better include:

  • Setting aside time to relax each day, especially in the evening
  • Eating healthy food
  • Keeping your bedroom as cool, dark, and quiet as possible

You have a low sex drive

Being stressed all the time can affect your love life and your partner's feelings. You may not feel like you want to be intimate when you are stressed. But it is worth trying.

Studies show that making more time for love can lead to less stress in your life. How? Having sex or even just hugging or cuddling helps release "feel good" hormones in your body. These can help improve your self-esteem and your outlook on life. They may even strengthen your immune system, too, which means you may get sick less often.

Remember, stress doesn't have to control your life. Find ways to help manage it. If you need help, talk an HCP or a therapist. The key is to deal with your stress sooner before it becomes a bigger problem.

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