what are some of the physical signs of stress
Health and Wellness

What Are Some of the Physical Signs of Stress?

May 16, 2023

Stress is an inevitable part of life that affects us all in some way or another. It is the body's natural response to danger or a perceived threat. We can also experience stress when feeling overwhelmed, overbooked, or simply stretched too thin. These symptoms can manifest in many forms, including both emotional and physical signs of stress. 

What are some of the physical signs of stress you might encounter? Knowing how to identify them is crucial to managing stress levels and improving your daily quality of life. Today, we’re examining signs to help you determine which physical effect is associated with acute stress in your body.

How Are Stress and Physical Health Related?

Part of answering the question, “what are some of the physical signs of stress?” includes learning how mental health affects physical health. While you might think of stress as impacting just your mental well-being, the connection between stress and the physical body is well-established.

Stress is a natural response to the various challenges we face in our daily lives. It can be triggered by anything from a looming deadline at work to a disagreement with a loved one. While stress can be a useful tool for motivating us to take action, it can also have negative effects on our physical health.

When we are stressed, our body reacts by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause a series of physical changes that prepare our bodies for a fight-or-flight response. This response is an ancient survival mechanism that allowed our ancestors to react quickly to threats in their environment.

In today's world, we often experience stress that isn’t related to physical danger. This means that our bodies are constantly in a state of high alert, which can lead to a range of physical symptoms. For example, many people who experience chronic stress report frequent headaches and muscle tension. In addition to these internal physical signs of stress, it can have more subtle effects on our physical health. Research has shown that stress can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. It can also contribute to external physical signs of stress like shifts in weight, skin issues, and more. 

Internal Physical Signs of Stress

Internal physical signs of stress refer to the changes that occur within the body's internal systems. It’s how our body reacts to stress and can yield long-term damage if left unchecked. Identifying internal signs may help you learn which physical effect is associated with acute stress in you.

What are some of the physical signs of stress within our bodies? Some of the more common internal signs include:

  • Sore muscles
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Adrenal fatigue

Sore Muscles

One of the most common internal physical signs of stress is muscle tension or sore muscles. When we encounter stress, our muscles tense up. This reaction is often subconscious, so you may not even recognize it was happening until the physical signs of stress begin to manifest as soreness or stiffness.

Over time, this muscle tension can lead to pain and discomfort in various parts of the body, such as the neck, shoulders, and back. It can also cause headaches and migraines.


Stress is also a contributing factor to headaches and migraines. Stress can trigger the release of certain chemicals in the brain causing blood vessels to constrict, leading to headache pain when left unchecked. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache associated with stress, and they typically cause a dull ache or pressure on both sides of the head.

Digestive Problems

Digestive problems are another common physical sign of stress within the body. Elevated stress levels could lead to various ailments such as stomachaches, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. When under stress, the body releases hormones that can negatively affect the digestive process, slowing it down or impeding it for a period of time. Stress can also cause inflammation in the gut, which can result in digestive issues or discomfort.

Cardiovascular Issues

Internal physical signs of stress can also have a significant impact on our cardiovascular system. When we are stressed, our body releases adrenaline and other stress hormones that cause our heart to beat faster and our blood vessels to constrict. This excess pressure on the heart can lead to an increase in blood pressure and an elevated risk of heart disease.

Adrenal Fatigue

Last but not least, another internal sign of stress is adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a blanket term that refers to various disturbances or discomforts in the body including exhaustion, feelings of tiredness, impacted sleep hygiene, and more.

The adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones that regulate our energy levels, among other things. When we are under chronic stress, our adrenal glands can become fatigued, leading to a decrease in energy and an overall feeling of exhaustion.

External Physical Signs of Stress

Stressors like work deadlines, family issues, or financial problems can manifest themselves in external physical ways as well. External physical signs of stress may include such conditions as skin rashes, hair loss, and even acne. It is important to understand that these symptoms are not simply cosmetic but are rather an indication that our bodies need support and attention.

What are some of the physical signs of stress externally impacting our bodies, you ask? Some of the more common external physical signs of stress are:

  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Weight change
  • Shifts in body posture or movement

Skin Problems

Some of the most common external physical signs of stress are a range of skin problems, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. When we’re under stress, our body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause inflammation and affect the immune system. These changes can trigger skin problems or worsen existing ones. An example of this may be someone breaking out in hives when feeling stressed about something or developing a patch of dry skin.

Hair Loss

Unfortunately, elevated stress levels can also lead to hair loss when left unchecked. When we are under stress, our body releases stress hormones that can cause hair follicles to enter the resting phase prematurely, leading to hair loss. Stress can also cause physical ailments like dandruff and an itchy scalp.

Weight Change

Stress can affect our weight in different ways. Some people may lose weight due to stress as they may lose their appetite or start eating less. On the other hand, some people may gain weight due to stress as they may start to indulge in emotional eating and consume more unhealthy foods. Regardless of which physical effect is associated with acute stress in your life, being mindful of it can help you counteract the impulse and regulate your weight even during periods of elevated stress.

Shifts in Posture or Movement

When we are under stress, we may begin to subconsciously slouch or hunch our shoulders, resulting in poor posture. Over time, these posture issues can lead to lasting negative effects including muscle tension or even adult kyphosis. Stress can also make our movements stiff and robotic, seizing muscles or causing stiffness that limits mobility and flexibility.

Methods for Stress and Pain Management

Stress is a natural part of life, but it can sometimes become overwhelming and lead to discomfort. As the two are intertwined, managing your stress levels is essential not only for your mental health but also for your physical well-being.

A few methods to try and manage stress-induced discomfort are:

  • Exercise: Physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Whether it's going for a run, taking a dance class, or doing yoga, find an activity that you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine.
  • Choose a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet is crucial for managing stress. Avoid processed foods and eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are rich in nutrients that can help boost your mood and reduce stress levels. Additionally, make sure you're staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Get a massage: Using a massage chair at home can help reduce muscle tension, relieve pain, and promote relaxation. Different types of massage techniques manipulate the muscles and soft tissues of the body, helping to release tension and promote relaxation. Getting a massage for stress and anxiety can also help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system.
  • Start a self-care routine: Self-care activities can include taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to music, or spending time in nature. It’s essential to take regular breaks from work or daily life to engage in ways to relax.

Resources for Managing Physical Signs of Stress

Now that you’ve got answers to the question, “what are some of the physical signs of stress?” it’s important to learn how to manage them. There are many resources available for managing physical signs of stress, helping you alleviate physical discomfort and promote overall well-being.

After consulting your doctor for professional medical guidance, check out these resources and see which may work best for you:

What are some of the physical signs of stress? They can range from internal symptoms like sore muscles and headaches to external symptoms such as skin problems or weight changes. If you’re experiencing elevated stress levels, identifying which physical effect is associated with acute stress in your life is critical for learning to manage it effectively.

Interested in how massage could help with the effects of stress in your life? Compare massage chair models and determine which has everything you need to boost your physical well-being.
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