We young professionals are so used to existing in a state of pure stress that we don't even notice it. It's like how when you walk into your kitchen, you might realize it smells like dead fish, a dirty diaper, and a fancy cheese you know you don't have, and yet once you're home for a while, you get used to the smell. You get so used to it that you forget about it, until someone else walks into the kitchen and doubles over, dry-heaving at the stench. Yes, that's what stress is like for us working folk.
We walk around our offices, our gyms, our apartments in a cloud of stress, but we don't do anything about it — we just get used to the haze. The problem with ignoring stress is that it's still harming you. The whole "If I don't look, it's not there" mentality doesn't work with stress. Stress isn't a polite one-night stand who lets themselves out in the morning without waking you ... even though you were really awake, praying for them to leave. Stress is a dangerous problem that wreaks all sorts of havoc, whether you pay attention to it or not.
The quicker you deal with your fiery foe, the better chance you have of disabling it and minimizing its destruction. Because while stress might manifest in seemingly harmless and superficial behaviors like nail-biting and foot-tapping, it can actually compromise your respiratory and cardiovascular system. That's not something to mess with. So even if you're reading this and in your head you're all "Uh, I'm not stressed, I would know," you might not. Here are some stress markers that you might not realize you have.
You're Having Crazy Dreams
Stress dreams are insane. When your body is flooded with stress hormones, your dreams are drunk with weirdness. Your natural sleep cycles are obstructed, causing strange, confusing, upsetting, or absurd dreams. You might wake up feeling more exhausted than you were before going to sleep.
You Can't Eat Enough Candy
Stress hormones are like drunk people. "Need sugar. Need grease. Give it to me." Think about what you've been craving lately. If you've had unusual cravings for foods you normally wouldn't, it might be a sign you body is more stressed than you realized.
You're Itchy Like A Dog With Fleas
Those lovely little stress hormones cause an increase in the production of blood protein, which can cause or worsen allergic reactions. If your skin is itchy, irritated, or speckled with blemishes, stress might be to blame.
Your Head Is In The Clouds
When you're stressed, your mind is on fret duty even when you don't mean for it to be. Your boss might be explaining something to you, but you find yourself staring at his nose hairs, unable to listen.
You're Running To The Bathroom
Stress bugs the hell out of your digestive system. It might back you up or speed you up. Either way, you'll notice a change in your "regularity."
Your Jaw Is Driving You Nuts
You might not even notice you're doing it, but if you're stressed, you're most likely clenching your jaw. It's very common, and can cause a painful tension and/or trigger migraines.
You're Smokin', Drinkin', Dulling The Thinkin'
When you're in the presence of stress-numbing vices, you might be overindulging without noticing. Count your drinks and cigarettes.
Your Neck, Your Back
Stress can cause muscle tension and nerve sensitivity. This is a recipe for a terrible neck and back ache. You might feel like you went to SoulCycle for the first time. Unfortunately, it's just stress. However, exercise can help reduce its effects, so maybe sign up for that class.