- Mental Health
4 Stress Symptoms You Should Never Ignore (And How to Cope)
For most of the general global population, stress is an indisputable part of everyday life—from stressful work demands to family obligations and unexpected obstacles. Some of us experience stress more frequently than we realize, and high-achievers, which include many WHOOP members, tend to overlook unidentified stress symptoms. Forgetting to eat until noon? You credit it to being overbooked. A sharp pain in your back? Probably from yesterday’s workout. But the data clearly indicates that while stress may be inevitable, if left unmanaged or uncontrolled, it may harm your body over time. According to a recent study, participants with heightened stress levels were more likely to make poor lifestyle choices and develop cardiovascular risk factors. Learning how to identify and mitigate stress symptoms in real-time, with the help of WHOOP, can help you navigate and enjoy daily life better and improve overall health and wellness both now and as you age. Plus, data can also illustrate the importance of good stress—and how it serves our bodies and mind. Here’s how to get started:
4 Stress Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Psychology Today says stress is our body's built-in response to danger. It is a surging of hormones that tells our body to fight, freeze, or flee from a situation. It doesn’t matter if the “danger” causing you to stress is real or imagined; your body will be unable to tell the difference. Here are symptoms of stress that you should never ignore:
1. Changes in your overall mood or way of thinking
Feeling agitated, exhausted, anxious or short-tempered lately? Your overall stress may be causing you to react to people and situations in ways you typically wouldn’t. Mood swings, ranging from irritability to sadness, are some of the many natural and common emotional responses to stress in your body and mind. Brain fog and racing thoughts are other common stress symptoms to be aware of and monitor internally. WHOOP helps you recognize stress levels rising in your body in the moment and provides you with coping and management tools to use in real-time, including breathing techniques, to reduce stress levels and improve your health and happiness.
2. Experiencing chest pains, headaches and upset stomach.
It’s important to note that stress doesn’t just cause mental or emotional symptoms; your body can experience physical symptoms, too. When you lead an active lifestyle, you are acutely attuned to your body and its ability to perform and respond. In addition to celebrating when you reach a fitness goal, it’s equally important to pay attention when your body is letting you know it’s in distress and needs a rest. Generally speaking, these are known as somatic symptoms, including aches and pains, headache, upset stomach, dizziness, and shaking.
3. Social isolation or withdrawal
If you consider yourself an outgoing or social person, withdrawing from social situations can be a crucial sign of stress. You always go for a Saturday A.M. run with your friend and grab coffee afterward—but suddenly, you would rather just stay home… many weekends in a row? There is a fine line between acknowledging your cup is full and taking a break from a social situation to avoid burnout and self-isolating due to anxiety or depression.
4. Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep are both common stress symptoms. This can occur for many reasons, but an obvious one is that something on your mind is causing you emotional distress. A nightly routine that includes dedicated time to unwind and breathwork, like the breathing sessions available in the WHOOP app as part of the Stress Monitor experience, can help mediate symptoms of stress by boosting mood, lowering anxiety and decreasing respiratory rates. To help you regulate and calm your stress, which can also lead to more restful sleep, the WHOOP app provides two breathing protocols: increase relaxation (cyclic sigh) and alertness (cyclic hyperventilation).
How to Manage Stress
The key to managing stress is to figure out a routine that works best for you whenever stressful moments occur. According to The Centers for Disease Control, making time to unwind, talking with friends and family, taking care of your body, and connecting with your community are some of the best ways to reduce stress. In a new study conducted by WHOOP, when members looked at their stress levels daily, they found a slight rise from Sunday to Friday and a decline on the weekends—knowing when your own stress levels spike will further help you manage your stress, by putting more emphasis on stress management tools during the work week. In addition, staying away from alcohol and drugs whenever you feel stressed is a great way to calm your mind and body. Recognizing when your stress is too overwhelming to manage alone, and seeking help from a licensed counselor or psychologist for extra support, is also essential.
Track and Manage Stress With WHOOP
Information is power, especially when it comes to overall health. Whether you experience elevated stress levels in your everyday life or are just curious how minor stressors impact your life, tracking and managing stress will help you be more in control and make the best decisions for your health. Feelings of stress can be self-reported based on how you feel, or measured with biomarkers, like cortisol, because there is no one definition of stress, and everyone experiences it differently. Stress Monitor measures biomarkers in your heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) as indicators of your physiological response to stress. Your reading is then compared to your personalized baseline from the past 14 days, and any motion is taken into account to help distinguish known stressors, like exercise, from other stressors. Stress Monitor then identifies your stress levels on a scale of 0 (low stress) to 3 (your peak stress level). To better understand the psychological experience of stress, you can use the WHOOP Journal. You can log your perceived stress levels and WHOOP will analyze how self-reported stress effects your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, recovery, and duration of each stage of sleep. Learn more here.