How Stressed Are You?

There are many signs and symptoms of mental and physiological stress. It's important to stop periodically and check which, if any, symptoms you've experienced during the day. If you consistently experience a number of symptoms daily, you may be experiencing too much stress. Here are two lists of symptoms of stress from the ISSA textbook "Fitness: The Compete Guide" edited by Frederick C. Hatfield, that I studied to get my Certified Fitness Trainer certification. Review the lists, preferably daily, for a period of time and determine which symptoms you may be experiencing.

Physiological signs of stress include:

Increased cholesterol level in the blood (detected by lab results)
High blood pressure
Rapid pulse
Loss of appetite
Tendency to Overeat (especially in response to stressful situations)
Queasiness in the stomach (butterflies)
Fluttering motions of the eyes
Tightened muscles in the neck and jaw
Grinding of the teeth
Clenching of the jaw
Cold hands
Sweating palms
Contraction and tightness of general body muscles
Jerky movement
Irregular or shallow breathing
Strained voice, often becoming high-pitched
Hunching posture (resulting from excessive tightening of shoulder muscles)
Rigid spine, preventing fluid movement
Tight forehead muscles, causing change in facial expression
Contraction of muscles in fingers and toes, causing them to curl
Twitching and trembling
Dryness of mouth
Lack of interest in sex
Menstrual disorders
Nervousness (including the tendency to be frightened or startled easily)
Excessive belching
Chronic diarrhea
Chronic constipation
Chronic indigestion (including belching, heartburn, and nausea)
Weakness and fatigue
Tendency to faint easily
Fainting spells preceded by nausea
Difficulty in falling asleep
Inability to remain asleep during the night
Inability to sit still
Tendency to tire easily
Muscle spasms
Feeling of fullness without eating
Inability to cry
Tendency to burst into tears at slight provocation or for no reason at all

Mental symptoms of stress include:

The desire to escape from people or things or situations
Strong urge to cry
Impulsive behavior that is incompatible with normal patterns of behavior
Feelings of anxiety, sometimes vague or ill defined
Inability to think clearly
Inability to make simple decisions
Inability to solve simple problems
Lack of desire to participate fully in life
Feelings of self-destruction
Tendency to be extremely critical of others
Meticulousness about surroundings and possessions
Tendency to be a perfectionist
Tendency to lose temper
Inability to relax physically
Feelings of mild panic
Frustration and concern over health (especially worries over minor aches and pains)
Fear of death
Fear of disease (especially cancer)
Fear of insanity or mental illness
Fear of being alone
Inability to cope with criticism
Inability to get along with others
Inability to concentrate
Feeling of separation or removal from people and things once important and vital
Tendency to live mostly in the past
Feeling of inability to cope with problems and frustrations
Inability to freely express emotion, especially anger
Feeling of rejection by family members
Feeling of failure as a parent
Inability to confide problems or concerns in another person

If you are consistently experiencing twenty percent or more from each list, you are most likely experiencing too much stress. Your first course of action should be to visit a doctor to rule out the possibility that a physical illness is causing the symptoms to appear. If you rule out that possibility, your next step is seeking out ways to reduce the stress in your life.

There are many ways to reduce stress, and one of the most beneficial is to engage in a regular exercise program. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise that also includes stretching and breathing exercises will not only assist with reducing stress, but improves overall health and fitness levels. If you are not exercising regularly, start right now.

If you are experiencing more than forty percent of the listed symptoms, you should seek professional counseling to receive assistance in reducing the stress in your life. This level is too high and you must do something about it. Regardless of the stress in your life, reducing it will help you live longer. It will also help you be happier. Happy and less stressed people are generally healthier and more fit. And that is the goal for us all.