Stress Series: Recognizing the Early Warning Signs of Stress

According to a 2010 study by Statistics Canada, “1 in 4 Canadian workers described their day-to-day lives as highly stressful.” Prolonged and consistent stress is associated with negative health patterns like smoking, over-consuming alcohol, improper sleep hygiene, and poor eating habits. Stress also contributes to negative health consequences including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

When you are able to recognize the early warning signs of stress, you can adopt stress management techniques to prevent these serious adverse health impacts:

Frequent mood swings

Emotional signs of stress can often be seen through moments when a breaking point seems very probable. Emotional breakdowns, panic attacks, trouble breathing, outbursts and having an overall short fuse are all common signs that you are overstressed.

Physical symptoms

Emotional stress can manifest itself in physical symptoms. This can include such ailments as stomach pain, nausea, back and neck pain, headaches, and digestive problems. The power that stress can have throughout the body is what makes the prolonged presence of it so dangerous. If these physical symptoms are occurring, they could be stress induced.


Since our skin is the largest organ we have, it can easily display some warning signs of stress. Acne or random rashes on the skin are a common attribute. This is generally a result of the adrenaline hormone that kicks in once we’re stressed, which can stir other hormones and cause them to react. Any random and frequent occurrences of hives or rashes could be a warning sign for you.

Loss/gain of appetite

Our digestive system  slows down as a natural reaction that preps us to fight or flight. So it’s common for those suffering from more severe, prolonged stress that their appetite will shrink, they will lose weight and eventually begin to look somewhat gaunt. At the opposite end of the spectrum, others may be prone to binge eat, “stress eat” or practice “emotional eating.”

Depression and Lethargy

If stress persists, it can induce lethargy and depression. Not wanting to leave the house or even the bed are sure telltale signs. Problems sleeping combined with overwhelming emotions of defeat and sadness can equate to some very serious outcomes if left unchecked.

These symptoms are a combination of warning signs that tell your body something is wrong and needs some extra care. Everyone reacts differently to stress. It’s important to recognize your symptoms so that you can deal with them and learn to manage stress in order to ensure that any long-term effects can be avoided. Schedule an appointment with your Ottawa therapist to learn new stress management techniques and talk through the issues like work, relationship troubles, loss, or any other issue that may be a source of stress in your life.