If you ever tried to concentrate on a task after a stressful day, then you know that stress can interfere with your ability to focus and think clearly.  When people are distracted, they risk injuring themselves and others.  A driver may not notice that a pedestrian has stepped onto the crosswalk.  Or the pedestrian may not have noticed the car.  Reducing the risk of injury is one reason to reduce your level of stress.  Another reason is to prevent the effects of prolonged stress in your body. 

Before you can deal with stress,  you must recognize the multiple warning signs.  The most common and recognizable warning signs of stress include changes in how your body usually functions, and drastic changes in emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.  As you look over the list of warning signs, think about how you normally act and feel when under stress.  Begin your own personal list of warning signs by selecting items from the lists that will be presented below later that apply to you.  Add other changes you associate with being stressed.  The next time your experience some of the warning signs on your list, you will know that you are under some stress.

The next step is to try to identify the stressor you are facing; the stressor that is putting you under stress.  Sometimes this task is easy because the source of stress is obvious; for example, a close friend is moving away.  Noticing patterns can help you identify a stressor within your daily life and activities.  Perhaps you always show signs of stress when you have not had enough sleep.  When it is difficult to accurately and quickly pin down the source of your stress, try to consistently record your activities and responses in a personal journal.  Do not get discouraged by this work.  It may take a long period of time for a specific pattern in your usual behavior to emerge.  By recognizing the warning signs as early as possible and by identifying stressors, you may be able to prevent some of the more serious effects of stress.

Warning Signs of Stress:

Behavioral Changes

  • overeating or hardly eating at all
  • sleep problems
  • hurrying; talking fast
  • withdrawing from relationships
  • reckless behavior

Changes In Thinking

  • unable to concentrate
  • negative thinking
  • excessive worrying
  • self-criticism
  • critical of others

Physical Changes

  • muscle tension
  • headache
  • upset stomach
  • pounding heart
  • shortness of breath
  • increased sweating
  • skin rash

Emotional Changes

  • irritable
  • angry
  • impatient
  • nervous
  • increased crying