Physical Symptoms of Stress

symptoms of stress

Whether it’s an unexpected life change, an upcoming event, or a transition you are preparing for, life can be incredibly stressful at times. We do our best to cope with the changes we are experiencing, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we are feeling overwhelmed and what is causing these emotions. Often, our bodies let us know through physical symptoms that we are feeling the pressures of life, and recognizing those signs can help us know how to better manage what we are experiencing.

Sources of Stress

Stress is our bodies’ natural reaction to the changes we experience in life. It can come as a result of experiencing major life changes or upcoming smaller tasks, such as giving a presentation. Other common sources of stress include:

  • Changes in your environment (work, school, home, etc.)
  • Relationship changes
  • Upcoming deadlines
  • Having a large number of tasks to complete
  • Medical or health concerns

While the things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed in your life may change, you will likely continue to experience similar situations, so managing your symptoms is key to living a successful life.  

Physical Symptoms Associated with Stress

As you navigate challenging situations, you’ll likely notice physical symptoms that accompany the stressors in your life. Recognizing these symptoms can help you identify when you may need to spend more time taking care of yourself or take a step back from your commitments. Some of the most common physical symptoms* of stress include: 

  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Body aches or pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold or sweaty hands, feet
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Chest pain, increased heart rate
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent colds or other minor illnesses

These physical symptoms can be an indication you are experiencing a significant event or challenge, so it’s important to make note of any changes you notice in your health. 

*While these symptoms can be attributed to stress, this is not a replacement for medical advice. You should always discuss any concerns regarding your health with a medical professional.

Stress vs. Anxiety

If you’ve experienced anxiety before, you might notice some common physical symptoms between anxiety and stress, but there are a few key factors that differentiate these two. Stress, for example, is generally a response to an external event and goes away once the situation is resolved. Anxiety exists internally and is usually persistent regardless of circumstances. It’s normally a constant feeling and often interferes with your ability to function in one or more areas of life. Anxiety may come as a result of living in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed, but this is not always the case as you can experience these physical symptoms without having anxiety.

Managing Symptoms of Stress

Once you are able to recognize the physical symptoms related to your worries, managing those feelings becomes much easier. If you’re noticing these in your life, and you can point to an event or circumstance causing you stress, try some of these coping strategies to help regulate your somatic symptoms: 

  • Make a prioritized list of tasks to complete
  • Spend time journaling as a way to process events or feelings
  • Exercise and prioritize healthy eating choices
  • Commit to drinking fewer caffeinated drinks
  • Reach out to friends or family for support

Help for Managing Physical Symptoms of Stress

Stress and anxiety can lead to utilizing unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or drug use, resulting in addiction. Effective addiction treatment requires addressing all aspects of mental health, including other diagnoses. At Augustine Recovery, we offer comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment to help you manage the stressors in your life while pursuing a life of sobriety.

If you’re ready to learn how to manage the stress in your life through addiction recovery, contact us today to hear more about our addiction treatment model.


  1. Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association. Accessed April 7, 2022.