health

10 Sneaky Signs of Stress You Should Pay Attention To

Christin Perry LitteThings writer by Christin Perry
Christin is a mom and editor specializing in lifestyle content. She also hides cookies like a boss.

Stress is a part of daily life for just about everyone in today’s hectic world. (Seriously, even dogs are now prescribed meds to manage their angst.) And while some amount of stress is okay—and even expected—too much stress can lead to poor health and premature aging if left unchecked.

Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re feeling stressed out—your heart might race, you may feel anxious and on “high alert,” and your stomach may even feel a bit queasy (that’s how you can get through that two-hour-long emergency meeting without lunch!). But there are some sneakier signs of stress as well; those that you may notice but don’t associate with stress. Are you familiar with them? Let’s find out below. If you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms, especially more than one at a time, they could, in fact, be signs of stress.

1. You’re Super Irritable

1. You’re Super Irritable
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You’re irritable more days than not. You can’t stand to be touched or bothered, and most of the time, you’re happiest just being by yourself. And you don’t even really know why. It can creep up so slowly that you hardly notice it at first, but if you find that you’re continuously irritable these days, stress could very well be the culprit. While it may be tempting to push your social circle away, a fun night out with friends or a shoulder to cry on might be just the thing you need.

2. You Have Crazy Breakouts

2. You Have Crazy Breakouts
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Repeated breakouts in one specific area of your face are one of the physical symptoms of stress. So if you’re noticing that one breakout starts almost as soon as the previous one has cleared up, try some stress reduction techniques to help clear your troubled skin.

3. You’re Always Tired

3. You’re Always Tired
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Having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? It’s not just depression that can zap your energy; chronic stress can wear you down over time too, causing you to feel fatigued even after a good night’s sleep. Or maybe a good night’s sleep is a thing of the past? You guessed it—insomnia is another one of those sneaky stress symptoms.

4. Everything Makes You Cry

4. Everything Makes You Cry
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If you’re beginning to feel as if you’re starring in your own Hallmark movie on a daily basis, you may be dealing with more stress than you can handle. It doesn’t matter whether they’re happy, frustrated, angry or even sad tears; excessive crying spells are one of the lesser-known signs of stress. So try to off-load some of the stress, if at all possible, to feel more like yourself again.

5. You've Developed a New Habit Or Tic

5. You've Developed a New Habit Or Tic
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If you’ve been biting your nails since the third grade, you may be off the hook here. But if it’s a more recent habit for you, it could be a result of being under too much stress. Other common stress-induced habits include picking at nails and/or cuticles, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw (more on this one later), and twirling your hair.

6. You're Experiencing Frequent Headaches

6. You're Experiencing Frequent Headaches
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Headaches are one of the most common physical symptoms of stress, so if you’re getting headaches on the regular, stress is the most likely culprit. Stress headaches feel like a tightening or pulling sensation across your forehead. And while they’re not serious, they can be super annoying, especially when your afternoon is packed with meetings. If you can squeeze in a massage, it’s a great way to relieve the tension of a stress headache. But if that’s not in the cards, even a quick walk outside may be enough to send a stress headache packing.

7. You're Getting Sick More Often Than Usual

7. You're Getting Sick More Often Than Usual
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Remember in college when you’d power through final exams on the fumes of a semester’s worth of coffee, booze, and the pure stamina of youth? And then that long sought-after break would start and, inevitably, you’d get sick? There’s a reason for that. Periods of intense stress have a way of weakening our immune systems, which in turn can cause more frequent illnesses. How to deal? There’s no great solution here—after all, things like work deadlines and final exams are just part of life. But during times of acute stress, do your absolute best to get regular sleep, eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids (no, beer doesn’t count!). Maintaining these healthy habits may just be enough to avoid that dreaded post-stress illness.

8. You're Having Some Pretty Weird Dreams

8. You're Having Some Pretty Weird Dreams
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If you’re noticing that your dreams have taken a turn for the bizarre lately, it’s likely that your daytime stress is manifesting itself in seriously strange ways as you sleep. And while they may seem funny at times (that dream where you rode a rabbit to work in your underwear was kind of cool), stress dreams can sometimes be intensely disturbing, which simply adds to the stress you’re already feeling. Finding ways of coping with stress, like yoga, meditation or quiet time doing a favorite low-key activity can help keep these wonky dreams at bay.

9. Your Sex Drive Has Noticeably Decreased

9. Your Sex Drive Has Noticeably Decreased
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When we’re under a great deal of stress, one of the first things to suffer can be our sack sessions. Don’t worry! It’s just a fact of life, and there’s really no need to force yourself to get in the mood. Waiting it out is totally fine, just be sure your partner understands what’s going on so he or she doesn’t feel pushed aside.

10. You're Noticing Pain In Your Teeth Or Jaw

10. You're Noticing Pain In Your Teeth Or Jaw
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We’re going to guess that you probably didn’t realize this was one of the stress symptoms, but it is! Many people, especially those going through chronic, long-term stressful life events, begin clenching their jaw and even grinding their teeth, which can lead to quite severe tooth and jaw pain—and enamel deterioration to boot. Th problem is, most of this goes on at night while we’re asleep, so we may not even realize we’re doing it. If your stress level has gotten to the point where you’re clenching and grinding, you may need to seek the help of both a professional counselor and a dentist!

Feeling stressed just reading about these sneaky signs of stress? Don’t worry — they are all totally manageable, and, once you’ve clocked the signs, finding ways to blow off steam and crave out some time for yourself will have you feeling better in no time.