Don’t say yes to the stress.

According to recent research, the biggest stressors of daily American life are finances (52%), current events (37%), health (37%) and relationships (29%).

When our bodies interpret something as a threat, they enter fight-or-flight mode by releasing cortisol and adrenaline, decreasing insulin production, and tightening blood vessels.

In emergency or short-term situations, the body responds to the threat and then recovers from the spike in cortisol. But, when we exist in this mode for a sustained period of weeks, months, or years without reprieve, these spikes become the norm, the body does not recover and the long-term effects are hell on our overall health.

Conditions associated with cortisol spikes and sustained stress include high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and weight gain.

Jennifer King, assistant director of the Center on Trauma and Adversity at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, told Time this week that when we ignore the signs of stress, our bodies begin sending us signals to stop in more extreme ways.

“A cascade of changes happen in the body when the stress response is activated in a sustained way,” she said. “When the dose is too big, and there’s not a clear beginning or end, that causes wear and tear on the body.”

Here are four ways to tell if our bodies are pleading for pause — emotional changes, relationship strains, illness and digestive issues.

Emotional changes

Stress and anxiety can easily affect mood, cognition and pleasure. Dr. Gerda Maissel tells Time that those suffering from stress might experience “circling” thoughts, a loop that inhibits memory recall, “You feel like you can’t remember things, or you can’t find the name for something.”

Anxiety can discourage folks from engaging in activities they have previously enjoyed. In addition, our inability to manage stress can express itself as an inability to care for ourselves. “People who desperately need a break sometimes also lose the ability to engage in basic self-care like exercise and eating well,” Maissel says.

Maissel also notes that the sense of overwhelm that people with chronic stress experience can lead to outbursts and the incapacity to make simple decisions.

Relationship strain

Perhaps in direct proportion to the emotional changes listed above, relationships are hit hard by anxiety and those closest to us often notice the warning signs before we do.

Symptoms of stress include irritability, lashing out, and self-isolation. Experts caution people to resist defensiveness if a friend, partner or family member addresses your change in mood.


Stress, past research has shown, affects the whole body, including the immune system. A weakened immune system leads to more frequent illness.

According to the American Psychological Association, stress can diminish the number of natural killer cells in the body, which are needed to fight viruses. Stress also spikes cortisol levels, hindering the body’s anti-inflammatory response and leaving it vulnerable to infection.

If you find yourself ceaselessly sick, it could be your body demanding a break.

Issues with skin, stomach, and sleep function

Stress can trigger a slew of digestive issues that run the gamut from indigestion and discomfort to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Anxiety is also related to appetite and those affected by it may overeat or undereat, causing weight gain or loss.

Stress is also known to complicate your complexion, exacerbating conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Additionally, it can trigger allergic reactions, often leading to discomforting skin issues like hives.

Stress affects sleep as well — if you are having issues falling or staying asleep or find yourself exhausted upon waking, it could be a cue from your body to prioritize rest and relaxation.

The negative effects of silencing stress signals

Ashley Fields, a therapist in Indianapolis who specializes in women’s issues and perinatal mental health, tells Time that a daily 30-second check-in can help discern our mental state, immediate needs and appropriate responses.

Fields maintains, “We don’t always realize how much tension we’re holding in our bodies until we make it a point to intentionally observe what we’re feeling, and where. It’s a pulse on how you’re doing and you’ll collect information that can help you make meaningful lifestyle changes.”

If the resounding message from your body is, Fields advises that a vacation is not the only solution and that just a few minutes of intentional downtime a day can help combat the negative consequences of stress.

What does intentional downtime look like? A breath of fresh air and a change of scenery have been shown to do wonders for reducing stress.

Kandi Wiens, a University of Pennsylvania researcher specializing in the study of stress, recently told The Post, “Spending time in nature boosts the feel-good hormones dopamine and endorphins.”

Wiens also recommends crying, sighing, looking at a photo of someone you love, exercising, and physical touch as remedies for beating back stress. Separate research suggests that for some, sex is the best defense against stress.

2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.