8 Signs of Work Stress You Should Never Ignore
Everyone has the occasional stressful day at the office. But for some people work-related stress is a chronic problem. According to the American Psychological Association, 65% of Americans named work as their top source of stress. And 76% of people Monster surveyed said they experienced “really bad” Sunday night blues about the upcoming work week.
But work-related anxiety does more than just put a damper on your weekend. By simply assuming stress is a normal part of your work routine, you could be missing your body’s attempts to warn you that the pressure is too much. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, they might be due to work stress.
1. Frequent headaches
Frequent headaches are one of the biggest physical signs of stress, according to The American Institute of Stress. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help to relieve the occasional work-related tension headache, according to Cleveland Clinic. But if your headaches are chronic, you might need to explore stress-management techniques, counseling, or even anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants.
Migraine headaches that happen over the weekend could also be a sign that the pressure at work is too much. A sudden decrease in stress levels might trigger these severe headaches, reported Prevention. Maintaining a consistent eating and sleeping schedule could reduce the chances you’ll experience a weekend migraine.
Next: Jaw pain
2. Jaw pain
If you’re stressed, you might be clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth at night and not even realize it. Jaw pain, earaches, and headaches are all signs of bruxism, which might be caused by day-to-day stress. Practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as meditation, might help to minimize teeth clenching and grinding, as can consciously trying to relax your face during the day. If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist might tell you to wear a mouth guard to prevent damage to your teeth.
Next: Upset stomach
3. Upset stomach
A stressful situation at work could be the reason behind your stomachache or other gastrointestinal troubles, such as constipation. That’s because “the brain and the digestive tract share many of the same nerve connections,” Douglas A. Drossman, a gastroenterologist and psychiatrist and co-director of the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, told Eating Well.
Altering your diet can help minimize stress-related tummy trouble. High-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, can help regulate digestion, while fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, can reduce inflammation that exacerbates your stomach problems. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and junk food can all make your stress worse, according to the Stress Management Society.
Next: Skin problems
4. Breakouts and other skin problems
If your skin suddenly looks like you’re back in high school, tough times at work could be the cause. Your body’s chemical response to stress can increase breakouts because your body is producing more cortisol, which can lead to oily skin and acne flare-ups, according to WebMD. If you have dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, or other skin problems, stress can also exacerbate those conditions.
Also, if you’re too focused on work-related troubles, you might forget to wash your face, not get enough sleep, or eat poorly — all of which can make skin problems worse. Sticking to your regular skin care regimen can help reduce breakouts, as can getting enough sleep, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.
Next: Hair loss
5. Hair loss
If your hair is coming out in handfuls when you comb or wash it, you might have telogen effluvium, a condition that can be triggered by stress, as well as by certain medications or infections. Occasional stress isn’t enough to cause sudden baldness though. But long-term stress that causes other physical changes, such as dramatic weight loss, could also trigger hair loss. The good news is this kind of hair loss is often temporary and might stop once you get your stress under control.
6. Bad dreams
Psychology professor Rosalind Cartwright told Prevention dreams tend to get more positive throughout the night, allowing you to wake up in a good mood. But when you’re stressed you don’t sleep as well. If you’re experiencing work stress, you might toss and turn all night, thinking about your bad boss or a daunting presentation.
And fatigue isn’t the only consequence of those restless nights. Reducing the time you spend asleep prevents your dreams from getting more positive, “allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night,” according to Prevention. Sounds like a nightmare.
Next: Oral health
7. Bleeding gums
Prevention also noted bleeding gums could be a consequence of work stress. Chronic stress weakens your immune system, which clears the way for bacteria to take hold in your gums. And compounding the issue are those long hours you spend at work downing vending machine food and forgetting to brush your teeth.
If you’re going to be eating at your desk keep a toothbrush close by, Prevention suggested as a short-term solution. But you also must relieve the stress to take care of the problem in the long term.
8. Sugar cravings
Overeating sugary foods is a physical response to stress, according to Harvard Health Publications. Stress hormones tend to make people want to eat sugar- and fat-filled foods — in other words, comfort foods. “These foods really are ‘comfort’ foods in that they seem to counteract stress — and this may contribute to people’s stress-induced craving for those foods,” according to the Harvard report.
It’s easy to overindulge in these comfort foods while sitting at your desk. Offices typically have sweets floating around, and vending machines are stocked with unhealthy snacks. To ward off these cravings, bring some healthy snacks that are perfect for the office. Your body will thank you.
Next: How to reduce work stress
Tips for reducing work stress
Although you can take steps to alleviate some of the physical symptoms of stress, those remedies aren’t likely to address the underlying cause of your anxiety. Identifying stress triggers and finding ways to manage them might be the best way to reduce the headaches, stomach pains, and other problems you’re experiencing, as well as to avoid the long-term term health problems that constant stress could cause.
Exercising, practicing meditation, creating boundaries between your job and the rest of your life, and taking time to relax and recharge can all be ways to manage work stress, according to the American Psychological Association. Making changes to your work space and getting more organized at the office might also make you happier at work. Cramped and cluttered desks can exacerbate stress, according to Time.
Simply recognizing that you’re stressed and taking steps to change your work environment or how you respond to it can be very helpful, experts say. “People feel less stressed when they take control of a situation,” psychologist Emma Kenny told The Guardian.