Your stress levels determine your life largely, so you must be aware of any symptoms or signs you might have. As John Mayer sang, “Your body is a wonderland” and no truer words have never been spoken.

Our bodies are incredible: they fight disease, fully function without any input and give us warning signs when all is not well.

Stress is one of those words that we use a lot, “work is so stressful…my husband is stressing me out…school exams are so stressful” and most of the time it’s just a figure of speech. The physical effects of stress are crippling and a lot of the time, totally unexpected.

Many find it impossible to work, eat or sleep when they are suffering from high-stress levels. Our bodies are programmed to protect us: the flight or flight scenario.

When something is approaching which is causing you to panic, such as a deadline, a date, flying, even your own wedding, it can be anything, our body believes we are genuinely under threat and this triggers reactions within the body.

Once the body believes that the threat has passed, our bodies return to normal. But if this threat does not pass, the body enters into high-stress levels and sometimes chronic stress. Chronic stress is seriously bad for your health.

It can affect your heart, sleep, anxiety, and depression. It’s important to recognize if you are suffering from chronic stress.

Here are six warning signs and how to control your levels of stress:

1. Panic Attacks

A sensation of feeling totally and utterly out of control of your entire body (and not in a good way). Breathing exercises are very important when it comes to ease a panic attack. If it’s possible, go somewhere quiet and where you are alone, place a hand on your chest and one on your heart and breath deeply in and out of the nose.

This type of breathing is, in fact, a yogic breathing method but it works wonders for people suffering from a panic attack.

2. Racing Thoughts

These cause us to lose focus on the task at hand. Whether you are at work or simply at home cooking or having a conversation, racing thoughts can totally disrupt our mind. A great way to stop this is to move away from any electronic, take a pen and paper and make a list of five things you’d like to accomplish in that day.

It may be work or home related, but by breaking a big task down into smaller chunks it makes us feel like we are in control and the project is manageable.

3. Muscle Tightness

Tightening our muscles at the thought of a stressful event can cause us to put pressure on our muscles and joint which can be painful. Another yogic exercise is to clench all the muscles for one breath in and then release them on the exhale.

This should be repeated for at least ten breaths. Another exercise is to inhale and clench one part of your body for five seconds and then release the breath. It will help to relax the muscles.

4. Stomach aches

Anxiety can physically affect us, particularly affecting our digestive system. If you find yourself frequenting the toilet a lot, then this could be a sign of chronic stress. For some, it can cause chronic diarrhea and for others, it can lead to painful constipation.

To ease your digestive system, try a tea containing ginger or peppermint.

5. Insomnia

The inability to fall asleep is a common symptom of stress. How often have you gone to bed and once you shut your eyes your mind starts racing? Some scientists have attributed this to using technology before bed. The blue light that your smartphones give off suppresses the melatonin, a hormone that helps us to sleep.

Try switching off your smartphone at least thirty minutes before bed to prevent the suppression of melatonin and ensure you have a good sleep.

6. Weight gain

For some, an occurrence of stress can completely suppress the appetite. Chronic stress is slightly different in that if our bodies feel threatened we produce hormones like adrenaline which helps us in threatening situations to still function.

Your body responds by telling you that you need to replenish your food stores. Which is why you might get the munchies when feeling stressed.

These symptoms aren’t to be ignored, and you need to listen and trust your body, it’s often trying to tell us something.

So, if you experience any of these signs, take action to gain control over your stress levels.

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