10 signs you are more stressed out than you think (and what to do about it right now)

We are living in what I believe to be a truly stressful time for many. So many things are piled high on our plates, yet it has also become the norm for a lot people that we do not often realise we are far more stressed than we think.  Below are 10 signs you may be under a bit more stress than you think and some tips on what you can do about it right now.

1. Sleep is something of the past and you are counting 5 hours sleep as a good night

There are many things that can have an impact on sleep (coming from a mum to two toddlers); I feel your pain.  There are however many of us that are experiencing more sleep problems than usual so if you are having trouble getting to sleep or waking in the middle of the night worried or feeling anxious or tossing and turning this can be an indicator that your stress marker is a little higher than usual.

TRY: setting up a calm, bedtime routine that limits screens and devices and use a journal before bed to write down things that are worrying you.  Often this simple act can help you relax and get a better night’s sleep.

2. You are not recovering from exercise or are not motivated to move.

Stress takes its toll on the body both mentally and physically.  We often associate exercise as a tool to help manage stress which in many cases it can, however if you are highly stressed, your body may not be responding the way it usually does to exercise, your muscles may be sore, you may have more aches than usual or your joints are playing up.

TRY: changing out your movement for more recovery-based options such as a beach walk, using a rebounder or gentle yoga.  Give yourself a 14-day recovery break to allow the body to manage stress more optimally.

3. Your Body is not co-operating with you

Chronic exposure to high loads of stress can really affect the body and the nervous system. Sometimes we can start to experience headaches, neck and jaw tightness, eye strain or even an inability to focus on objects clearly.

TRY: You may like to seek medical attention to have these things checked out for peace of mind and schedule a small slot in your calendar labelled ME. Use this time to breathe deeply, listen to some music or walk outside – take a moment, reset, and refocus.

4. Your mojo has left you in the lurch

Many people under high stress lose their excitement for things and feel a little lack lustre.  Things that used to get you excited do not even ring your bell anymore.  Nothing seems worth the effort and you just do not have the time for it anymore.

TRY: texting a friend and plan a simple catch up.  Reach out and surround yourself by those who love you most and share your feelings.

5. Your eating patterns have changed, and you grab and go all the time

Under stress we often lose our desire to sit down and enjoy the experience of eating.  It is more about grabbing something / anything on the go and carry on.  We often do not enjoy the food or even taste it and simply eat without really focusing on it.

TRY: taking a quick moment and looking for a recipe using your fav food or check your local café or restaurant for takeaways if you are too busy and treat yourself to something delicious and ideally healthy – yes, they do co-exist.

6. What to wear and how you look has dropped to well past number 10 on the priority list

Now I can relate to this as there are many days I do not even think about what I grab out of the wardrobe, in fact it is often just what has been washed and yet to be put away that I grab – it’s quick and easy. I do notice if my stress load is higher than usual it’s not that I am in such a hurry but more that I don’t really care as much, it’s all a bit hard.  If you have lost your motivation for appearance and doing your hair and spending time on yourself, you may be under much more stress than you think.

TRY: waking up and drinking some water to dampen the stress response, choosing a herbal green tea to kick-start your day and taking 60 seconds to look in the mirror and ask yourself how you are today and what could you do to make you smile even more.

7. You are in control, on top of it all and owning it and then you are not.

Mood swings can be a big part of a high stress load – you are balancing so many things and it’s a lot like treading water.  Your capacity to manage things outside of the ordinary often disappears when stress gets too much and you can chop and change in a moment.

TRY: culling your calendar – have a look and see what you can move, reschedule or simply get rid of.  A good question to ask – will this be important in a month? Change your priorities and ensure you are at the top of the list

8. You feel super tired but wired

This can be a symptom of your sleep patterns and also stress getting out of control.  Feeling exhausted but not being able to relax or wind down can be a sign that your stress level needs some attention.

TRY: taking a magnesium supplement (give it a few days to work and take mid-afternoon for the first week) and increase your magnesium rich foods – leafy green vegetables, some lovely dark chocolate (keep sugar under 3g per serve), cashews, quinoa, almonds and flaxseed are a good place to start.

9. Your healthy living habits are deteriorating rapidly

None of us live a perfect life and nor do we want to (that’s a big stressor in itself) however when you start to notice some of your usual healthy habits are no longer habits and more infrequent occurrences only to be replaced by their unhealthy cousins, it may be a time to check your stress load. Having a few extra drinks is not a problem but when it is a daily occurrence, or you have started smoking after a time of abstinence then you may want to regroup for a moment.

TRY: keeping a diary of your activity for three days – sometimes looking at what you are actually doing is enough of a trigger to motivate you for change.  Ask for help and contact a health practitioner for advice and tips or look for online resources and support.

10. Hanging out with yourself has become the norm not the occasional occurrence

Stress can manifest in many ways and often people tend to isolate more.  If you find yourself not wanting to go out, choosing to stay home more often, or declining events it may well be that stress has got too much for you.

TRY: talk to a professional about your worries, concerns and getting another perspective on the situation.  Sometimes we cannot see clearly when we are right in the thick of it.

Stress is not something I like to leave for myself or my clients so I always advise if you're experiencing these types of symptoms, it might be time to talk to a professional or even let a family member know. Especially if you're feeling signs of depression and anxiety, it can escalate quickly.

Life can be tough, and we are not superhuman as much as we would like to think we are.


Lee-Anne Wann is a fitness specialist, nutritionist, presenter and author. She currently runs a health and fitness consultancy business providing companies and organisations with health, nutrition and wellness solutions and content, she also runs a private nutrition practice and was a television host for TVNZ’s ‘Kiwi Living’.