While the effects of stress have been meticulously studied, you may have a hard time pinpointing them. If anything, your body gives you muted, physical warning signs that you're reaching your breaking point—many of which are easy to dismiss. "If you're under chronic stress, [i.e.,] suffering a daily assault of stress hormones from a demanding job or a personal life in turmoil, symptoms may be more subtle," says Stevan Hobfall, chair of the department of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, to Prevention. He recommends focusing on sleep, exercise, and work-life balance if you experience any of the following symptoms:.
Sudden drop-offs in stress levels can actually result in a headache, meaning highly-stressed people may experience weekend migraines. Todd Schwedt, MD, of the Washington University Headache Center recommends sticking to a regular sleeping and eating schedule during the week to minimize risk.
According to Rosalind Cartwright of the Rush University Medical Center, dreams usually get more and more positive as the night goes on, putting you in a calm, relaxed state when you wake up. But when stress causes you to wake up throughout the night, this process is disrupted and unpleasant imagery may infiltrate your dreams. "Good sleep habits can help prevent this; aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime," she says.
Oddly enough, chronically stressed people are at higher risk for gum disease. Doctors speculate that this is due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which may "impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums," writes Prevention. To prevent this from happening, always keep a toothbrush on hand, and exercise and sleep more to lower stress levels.
For more on stress management, read up on the three-minute stress relieving ritual you can do anywhere.