Describe Common Signs and Indicators of Stress (7 tips)

In this brief guide, we will describe the common signs and indicators of stress, both in self and in others, and we will also look at some common causes of stress. We will also compare strategies for managing stress in self and others.

Describe Common Signs and Indicators of Stress

To describe common signs and indicators of stress, one might find it easier to divide the symptoms into Physical indicators, psychological indicators and behavioral indicators.

Some physical signs and indicators of stress might include aches and pains or frequent infections, psychological signs may include depression and behavioral signs may include short temperedness or snapping at people.

Stress may not become noticeable till it becomes too big and creeps up on you, which is why so many times it can be so hard to treat it or fix it in the initial stages, because the person may not even realize that they have gotten used to it. 

Sometimes stress can stick around for so long that it can start to feel familiar, even normal, and one might not even understand that they are not in a good or healthy state. 

Someone with stress may often not notice how much it’s affecting them, even as it takes a heavy toll. 

This is why we have described here the signs and indicators of stress, so that you may be aware of stress in yourself or others:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Agitation
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds or flu

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

How much stress affects us is clearly evident in the signs and indicators of stress described above, where one might see that physical symptoms like colds and infections are also mentioned.

This proves that constant stress can be so life-changing and significant that it can change the very constitution of your body and make your immune system weaker and more prone to infections and physical illnesses.

What is Stress?

Stress may be defined as a state of perpetual emotional and physical tension in the body that may result from constant aversive stimuli in the individual’s external world.

Despite what most people think, not all stress is bad, in fact, some forms of stress are actually good for you, and this “good” stress is called Eustress, and it actually pushes you along your goals and drives you to do better.

The feeling you get before a big exam that you have been looking forward to for a long time is Eustress, and it may give you the necessary Adrenaline rush you need to do well at studies and exams.

The problem occurs when one starts feeling the stress all the time, and when it becomes perpetual, as mentioned above, it can become a problem, because stress causes the body to release hormones like cortisol, because it is anticipating a fight or flight coming soon, but it never happens, and these hormones continue to keep the body in a state of tension and agitation.

The purpose of these hormones is to prepare the person for a confrontation of some sort, and when it does not happen they don’t just dissipate.

In most cases, a stress response is the body’s way of protecting you, but only when it happens in actually problematic situations, and when it works properly, it can help you stay focused, energetic, and alert, and prepared to do what it takes to stay safe and happy. 

In fact, stress can save your life because the hormones that are engaged in stress reactions are responsible for providing you with extra strength to defend yourself like when your instincts kick in and you slam on the brakes to avoid a car accident.

Similarly, as mentioned above, positive stress, or Eustress, also helps you rise to meet challenges and it can often keep you on your toes, like during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting something amazing.

After a certain time, if stress does not go away it starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your quality of life.

Often stress can manifest in the initial phases as feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, and it would help you tremendously to bring your nervous system back into balance at the initial stage itself.

Common Signs and Indicators of Stress in Others

Here are some of the common signs and indicators of stress in others:

  • Getting into frequent arguments
  • Thinking or talking about leaving their job
  • Thinking about changing their situation in some way
  • Being sick more often
  • Decreased work/academic performance
  • More complaints and grievances
  • Trying to take more time off work or general activities
  • Being twitchy or nervous
  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
  • Frequent colds, coughs and infections
  • Complaining of aches and pains

The signs and indicators of stress in others can seem very hard to understand but they may not necessarily be so, and with some acute attention one may be able to figure out if someone is under stress.

Another thing you may do to figure out if someone is under stress is see if they are undergoing some difficult life circumstance, because they might be suffering from an Acute Stress Reaction.

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

Given below are the primary behavioral symptoms of stress:

  • Changes in appetite, not eating or eating too much
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased use of drinks, drugs, or cigarettes
  • Engaging in nervous behaviors like such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
  • Frequent anger outbursts
  • Aggressiveness
  • Fighting with people 
  • Snapping at people
  • Irritability 
  • Distractedness

Some people under high levels of anxiety and stress tend to compusively scratch or pinch their skin, this is called Dermatillomania.

Causes of Stress

Given below are some of the causes of stress:

  • Toxic Work Environment
  • Going through the loss of a loved one
  • Physical Ailments
  • Tough family situation
  • Academic Pressures
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Familial pressure
  • Difficult interpersonal relationships
  • Problems in brain structure
  • Improper ways of dealing with problems
  • Highly sensitive personality types

Compare Strategies of Managing Stress in Self and Others

When one compares strategies of managing stress in self and others, it is clear that in managing stress in self may include more related to assessment of stress and keeping in touch with feelings, while in others it may involve targeted approaches such as stress inoculation training.

Here are some strategies for managing stress in self:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Being more in touch with your feelings
  • Learning to recognize stress in your body
  • Learning to take a break when you get too stressed out
  • Talking to someone about stress, sharing your problems

In others, the strategies for managing stress might be more technical in nature, and they are discussed in detail below.


Stress causes arousal, the opposite of which is relaxation, which means that relaxing should be a good way to reduce stress. 

Relaxing when under stress is not so hard when you know how and one way in which people can learn to control their feelings of tension is called progressive muscle relaxation (or just progressive relaxation), in which they focus their attention on specific muscle groups while alternately tightening and relaxing these muscles. 

It was introduced many years ago by Edmund Jacobson and most therapists teach this technique to help their patients with relaxation.


The principle behind biofeedback is that we gain control over bodily functions if we are aware of what is happening, which ideally would put the person more in control of their bodily responses that are happening due to stress.

Biofeedback aims to give an individual some direct feedback about bodily responses and so encourage them to take control of that response. 

Biofeedback concentrates on biological systems that are not under conscious control but are having an adverse effect on the person.

The sort of information that can be given to a person includes the pattern of their brain activity (using an electroencephalogram), their heart rate, their skin conductance (using a galvanic skin response), and their temperature. 

Stress Inoculation Training

  Some medical treatments give people weak versions of a disease in order to encourage the body to develop defenses against the full-blown version. This is called inoculation. 

A form of cognitive therapy uses a similar idea as a preparation for a stressful event and it is called Stress Inoculation. 

The Stress inoculation programme involves three stages:

  • Conceptualisation, where the therapist talks with the patient about their stress responses, and the patient learns to identify and express feelings and fears.
  • Skill acquisition and rehearsal where basic behavioral and cognitive skills are taught to the patient to help them deal with stress.
  • Application and follow through the patient is guided through a series of progressively more threatening situations. 


In this brief guide, we described the common signs and indicators of stress, both in self and in others, and we will also look at some common causes of stress. We also compared strategies for managing stress in self and others.

Stress is extremely disruptive and it can make you feel like you have an actual physical condition that just won’t leave you alone, and it can be very disturbing to the routine of your life.

Because stress is so common, and the current climate leaves no one immune to stress, as just about anything can push people into the state of stress.

If you want to know your stress level, you should know about the Garmin Stress Score.

If you have any questions or comments about the common signs and indicators of stress we have described here, or about the management of stress, please feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Describe Common Signs and Indicators of Stress

What are 5 emotional signs of stress?

Here are 5 emotional signs of stress:

Depression or anxiety.
Anger, irritability, or restlessness.
Racing thoughts or constant worry.
Sadness or low mood
Making bad decisions.

How do you identify signs of stress in the workplace?

Here is how to identify signs of stress in the workplace:

Chest pain or a pounding heart.
Not being motivated to work
Not being able to think about work on your off time
Nausea, diarrhoea or constipation.
Getting colds more often.
Muscle tension, pains and headaches.
Episodes of fast, shallow breathing and excessive sweating.
Loss or change of appetite.

How do you identify stress in yourself?

To identify stress in yourself you need to introspect about whether you experience the following emotional states:

irritability, aggressiveness, impatience or feeling emotionally wound up.
anxious, nervous or afraid.
uninterested in life.
like you’ve lost your sense of humour.
like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off.
unable to enjoy yourself.

What are the 3 causes of stress?

Here are the 3 causes of stress:

Not having adequate control over your life
Toxic Work Environment
Major adverse life event 


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