Physical Signs of Stress, What are They?

If you try and look for them; the physical signs of stress are the easiest to discover. The big problem, however, is that the signs people see are often discarded as being something else.

What does that mean then?

The best example is the stomach cramps and sometimes nausea. Everybody has these symptoms now and then and very often we think: "hmm, must have been something I ate"...

Often that is also the truth, no doubt about it! But our stomachs, or rather intestines, are very sensitive to hormones and chemicals being released when we are under stress.

You can often feel this when you are about to do something that you fear on that gets you exited (like a rollercoaster ride): You can feel the butterflies in your stomach, you sweat more and you may even feel nauseated.

This is not to say that rollercoaster rides are stressful in a bad way. The physiological (the body's) answer to why we like rollercoaster rides - or at least some do - is because they release endorphins, a neurochemical that makes us happy...

Short bursts of stress is not only helpful, they can be healthy too.
... So stress in smaller amounts can make us feel happy or lifted. But the same physical signs of stress are what we should look out for in bigger doses.

So if you are having stomach pain/cramps or maybe nausea and you are not going on a rollercoaster ride; try and analyze the situation a bit more instead of just thinking "it must have been that cheesecake!!"

Most Common Physical Signs of Stress

Below is a list of the common physical signs. Remember that they do not all apply to you, stress is something we all have and not in the same way. I have added some notes also :)

Physical Sign David's Notes
Sweating Very common. Some get it from the slightest arousal. Sweaty palms are also very common
Stomach pain You may feel constipated, spasms in do muscles or full-blown stomach cramps.
Nausea Often it comes with stomach pain... It may just not be last night's chicken!
Shallow breathing If it persists it can give you headaches and even cause fainting.
Shivers or tremors The body is “over-preparing” itself, and hormones, chemicals and energy rush through the body!
Cramps General muscle cramps are often delayed. So only showing after a stressful period - like an exam. It also causes fatigue/tiredness..
Increased heart activity Your heart beats faster and harder. This is particularly dangerous if you have a preexisting heart condition.
Over- or under-eating Stress can easily cause you to stress eat or not eat enough
Acid reflux Often in connection with general stomach pain
Hair loss Hair loss and stress has so far only been tested on mice, but the same relationship may well be true for humans!
Tics This is one of the most extreme physical signs of stress and shows loss of motion control!
Feeling cold The fight-or-flight response may cause smaller blood vessels to tighten so your hands and arms, and feet and legs may feel cold

I would like to remind you that stress is an individual thing and although you have some of the above signs now and then, it does not mean that you are stressed.

However, you may also be stressed even if you see none of the signs above - then you have to look a bit deeper and find you cause of stress. Download the free stressor chart and find your physical signs of stress here!