It may not seem like something you’d have to work to identify, but stress can actually be subtle. It is especially important to learn the signs and symptoms of stress in children, since adults often assume children’s behavior is simply a discipline issue. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you can look for to identify stress in your life, and in the lives of those you know.
Depression is complex, but it is often a symptom of unresolved, unrelieved stress. Excessive stress can make you feel unaccomplished – there’s just too much to do – and that can result in feelings of worthlessness. Also, since stress can affect sleep, your mind and body can become exhausted. Without adequate rest, the brain cannot function optimally. Depression is said to be the brain’s reaction to stress.
Do you find yourself snapping at people when you don’t mean to? Do you go from happy to down within a matter of minutes or hours? In children, you might notice irritability or a “bad attitude” or aggression as moody signs of stress.
“Brain fog” can result from stress. Children may have trouble concentrating in school or on their homework. You may find it difficult to stick to a task without your mind wandering. Again, this can be interpreted as your brain trying to get the rest it needs by “escaping.”
This is perhaps one of the more torturous stress symptoms. Insomnia is very difficult to deal with and adds to the cycle of stress. If you can’t sleep, it can begin a cascade of cyclic symptoms that result from lack of sleep, and then exacerbate the lack of sleep. In children, this may manifest as an inability to sleep alone, nightmares, or wakefulness.
Stress can make everything seem bigger. When you are stressed, it seems like there is just too much to do and you’ll never get it done. Then you may feel inadequate because you didn’t accomplish everything that needed to be done during the day.
Muscle tension from stress can result in headaches, as can insomnia. If you experience headaches regularly or often, it could be stress.
Stress affects the heart – it’s supposed to, so that your chances of survival are increased in a stressful situation. But when the stress is continual, your heart can really get “tired out.” Stress can result in chest tightness or heart palpitations.
In children, tweens and teens, this is something to watch for. Stressed children may hole up in their rooms and refuse to interact with family or friends. It’s also something to think about in your own life – do you find yourself too worn out to go out? If someone asks you to a party or event, do you just think of it as one more thing you’ll have to deal with? That may mean you’re stressed.
Weight Gain or Loss
Your appetite may fluctuate significantly if you are stressed, resulting in weight gain or loss that you weren’t expecting. Depression and insomnia can contribute to weight gain, too, and some expert theorize that fat, especially on the belly, can actually be a sign of stress.
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