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  • Writer's pictureNicky Lloyd Greame

Am I stressed?

Spotting the signs of Stress - EARLY

You know that feeling when you are starting with a cold….??

Most of us recognise those early warning signs fairly quickly don’t we… that feeling of being slightly off it, nose running, a sore throat, tickly cough maybe even a bit of a headache due to our nose being blocked.  Generally, when we spot these, most of us take some action.  We might drink more fluids, eat some fruit in an effort to boost vitamin C levels, dig out the honey & ginger, go to bed early, stay out of the rain.  You may even have some ‘old wives’ tale’ that you swear by to help you -  if not bypass the cold entirely - at least reduce it to just a day or two.

The question is though – do you do the same when your mental health is feeling slightly off?   Do you recognise those early signs and symptoms, do you acknowledge them and more importantly do you take action to minimise the impact it will have on you – so you make a speedy recovery?

The reality is, our mind and body are very good at telling us when things aren’t right such as when we’re tired and need some TLC, when we need to just ease off the pedal a bit and slow down for a bit.  Sadly though, many of us ignore or don’t even recognise those signs and symptoms and we keep battling on through until it shouts and screams so loudly we can no longer dismiss it.  The problem with this strategy is that when we get to that point it’s much harder to bounce back, it’s a much steeper hill to climb back up.

Here are just some of the main signs and symptoms we should NOT ignore, treat your mental health like your physical health and when you start to get those early signs (which we all do – just like we all get colds) – take action.  


  • Short-tempered

  • Moody

  • Weepy

  • Frustrated

  • Unable to relax

  • Low confidence/self-esteem

  • Withdrawn/unsociable

  • Irritable

  • Loss of interest


  • Forgetfulness

  • Unable to concentrate/focus

  • Irrational

  • Negative thoughts (pessimistic)

  • Indecisive

  • Disorganised

  • Brain ‘fog’


  • Headaches/Migraines

  • Upset stomach

  • Insomnia/struggle to get to sleep

  • Aches, pains & tense muscles

  • Dry mouth (problems swallowing)

  • Chest pains

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Low energy

  • Loss of sex drive and/or ability

  • Sudden hair loss (alopecia)

  • Shaking/Nervousness

  • Clenched jaw

  • Increase in eczema/psoriasis symptoms

  • Frequent coughs/colds  


  • Appetite changes/cravings

  • Procrastination increases

  • Avoids commitments and responsibilities

  • Increase use of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or high sugar/carb foods

  • Nervous behaviours such as nail biting, pacing, chewing lips, fidgeting, tapping etc

Now you might be reading this list and thinking “Aaaggghhh” I have so many of these”… and it’s true we often do.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we are experiencing the early signs of chronic stress.  You know yourself and you know what is your ‘normal’ behaviour versus what is different for you.  The key is to spot the times we exhibit these signs and symptoms (usually a number of them) when we wouldn’t normally, and there is no other explanation for them.

What action should I take?

Let’s assume you recognize you are experiencing some of these early signs and symptoms… what now?  

It’s time to prioritise yourself – no excuses.

In the same way you would if you had a cold, look after yourself: 

Good nutrition, lots of fluids (water – NOT alcohol – sorry!!), get some early nights, do some things that make you laugh, that give you a boost in some way.  For some that’s exercise, fresh air, being active, for others that’s relaxation, a massage, a few days off, time with friends/family, hobbies, meditation, music even a holiday etc.  Find what works for you.

I would also recommend talking to someone, whether it’s a colleague, family member, friend, partner or a professional - you’d be amazed at how sometimes even just speaking things out can lighten our load and boost our mental health.

If you catch it early – you’ll be back up to full ‘mental’ strength in no time… ready to take on the world. ☺ 


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