Behavioral Signs of Stress

It is often easy to see the behavioral signs of stress. And it is also often when people see these signs that they first discover that they are under stress.

The behavior signs are how your body reacts autonomously (on its own) to stress. So it is not a conscious thing or an active choice.

This is not to say that you can't do anything about it! - In fact very often the behavioral signs go away very quickly when the stress goes away.

Stress Tip

A behavioral sign can be used as a check-up on you stress

So a certain behavior that you do when you are stressed without thinking about it can be a good "check-up" to know if you are stressed or not.

As an example: My legs bounce rapidly up and down on my toes when I am stressed - or really intensely focused on something (usually sitting down). But when my task is done the leg-jumping normally goes away; and it should...

If the behavioral signs - though normally harmless - do not go away after a stressful time, your cause of stress is probably not gone yet.

Like most in the stress debate, no one can say exactly how behavioral signs of stress will come to you, and so I can only give some rough general types here.

Common behavior signs are:

Behavioral Sign David's Notes
Over- or under-eating Stress can easily cause you to stress eat or not eat enough
Overdoing daily tasks Like checking your email over and over - there is nothing wrong in a little time off ;)
Biting nails (excessively) Biting the skin around the nails is also a common problem
Twisting or scratching hair Very common, but it's also a common sign of pain boredom!
Pacing Basic walking without purpose is seen very quickly in also any animal when under stress
Touching/scratching yourself Often a stressed person can been seen touching him/her-self, especially in the face. Some wrongfully call this manic behavior.
Constant repetitive actions If your son is solving the Rubik's Cube 600 times a-day it may be stress related, unless he's a pro of course!
Tics At the very extreme of the signs: Tics represent a complete loss of motion control.

Please do not obsess over the list here. Even a little stress cause the behavioral signs to "pop out". When your body is becoming stressed it is preparing itself for fight or flight. That also makes your mind focus on the most vital things - like how to escape a fire alive, when our body does this it automates some other functions. It is these functions we sometimes see as strange or funny behavior like taking the milk from the fridge twice in the morning.

I hope this shows that in general the behavioral signs of stress are harmless, but also quite easy to spot.

If you spot this behavior with yourself or others go and ask yourself or that person if maybe there is something that needs to be taken care of before anything else today. You might just find your cause of stress right there.

If not, you can go here for more info on the behavioral signs of stress and learn about the causes of stress.