7 Signs You’re More Stressed Than You Think

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most of tend to think of stress as a pretty cut and dry thing. Like, either you’re stressed–like when you have mountains of homework and exams and friend drama and your crush isn’t texting you back and you’re running late for your babysitting job because you’re stuck in traffic–or you’re not, like when you’re on summer vacation and your only real priorities are hanging out at the pool, watching Netflix, thinking about  important gay icons and cracking open some cold ones with the boys.

But stress, as it turns out, is pretty sneaky. It tends to slip into the crevices of your life and make things harder for you, even if you don’t feel like you’re experiencing a ton of tension and anxiety.  Basically, stress isn’t actually all that simple. In fact, it’s possible for you to be stressed without actually knowing it, either because you’re busy with other things or you’re so used to being stressed that it’s turned into a constant state of being for you. So, check out these signs that you’re actually a lot more stressed out than you think you are:

You're Always Clenching Your Jaw

Recently, I went to the dentist (not to brag), and he told me that I have an "abnormally strong jaw" because I clench my teeth so much (also not to brag). This is not good! Not only does it wear down on the teeth, it can also lead to headaches, jaw pain, back pain, and a whole bunch of other issues because it's a sign of tension and anxiety in the upper half of your body. So, if you're randomly waking up with headaches, try and pay more attention to the stressors in your life and see if you can identify its cause. You can get a night guard to protect your teeth, and doing stretch-based workouts like yoga and Pilates can help with this, too.

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You're Craving Unhealthy Food More Than Usual

Now, this is a tough one, because, if you are anything like me, you pretty much always crave junk food. But increased stress has been proven to cause people to want sugary and fatty foods more than they usually might, because stress ramps up the body's production of cortisol, which is a chemical that causes hunger. In these cases, people tend to turn to junk foods, because they provide a feeling of instant gratification. In short, there isn't anything wrong with wanting some fast food and sugar here and there. But if you're downing ton of chips and candy in a way that feels automatic rather than something you've chosen to do, it could mean that you're stressed out without realizing it.

Image source: iStock

You're Breaking Out

Do you have, like, a lot of new zits and aren't sure why? It could be that you're more stressed than usual. If you're already an acne-prone person, stress has been proven to cause more acne. Scientists aren't exactly sure why, but many think it's because stress increases the body's production of sebum, which, in turn, can lead to more acne. Not sure if what you have is stress acne or regular acne? Some face mappers think that pimples on the nose are an indicator of stress. In any case, a zit is a zit--try treating it with a multi-step system like Proactiv to help it go away.

Image source: iStock

You're Really Itchy

Sometimes, stress can actually manifest itself outside the body and cause itching, irritation, and inflammation. This is because stress hormones can cause an increase in blood protein (ew), which can worsen or induce allergic reactions. Basically? You're allergic to stress and should avoid it at all costs.

Image source: iStock

You Have A New Irrational Fear

Are you suddenly afraid of something you've never been afraid of before, like airplanes or spiders or wild animals? It could be that you're stressed AF. Apparently, stress has a way of making people frightened of things they've never really been concerned about before, since stress causes a general lack of confidence and can make things that weren't a big deal before loom large in your mind. So, if you're really afraid of something for no apparent reason, try and figure out if there's a new source of stress in your life.

Image source: iStock

You're Having Trouble Sleeping

According to the National Sleep Foundation, stress can cause insomnia by making it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and/or affect the overall quality of your sleep. This, as a result, can cause more stress, since it makes you feel tired during the day, which might make it harder to complete tasks. (Talk about a vicious cycle.) To deal, try working on your sleep hygiene--this means allowing yourself to "wind down" before bed (AKA not going straight from studying for an exam to trying to fall asleep), limiting screen time about an hour before you go to bed, and trying to set a standard bedtime that you adhere to every night. This might be annoying, but it'll probably make things easier for you in the long run.

Image source: iStock

You Have Awful Period Cramps

Period cramps are always annoying. But, if they've suddenly gone from "ow" to "can't get out of bed all day," you might be experiencing an increase in stress. According to a Harvard study, stressed women experience far more painful period cramps than women who aren't as stressed because the stress can cause an imbalance in hormones. No matter the case is, you should probably get check out if you have really terrible period cramps--no one should have to deal with that kind of pain!

Image source: iStock

Were you surprised by any of these signs? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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