We know, we know—there’s something strangely exhilarating about downing a latte at 7 a.m., running to back-to-back meetings, putting out office fires and responding to emails from bed at midnight. But as nice as it is to feel busy, a person’s body can only handle so much before it crashes. “Stress is killing you by shortening your lifespan and quality of life, but yet it makes you feel important,” says Belisa Vranich, founder of The Breathing Class active meditation courses and author of Breathe. “When you have nothing to do for too long, you feel like you are missing out. There’s a voice in your head that calls you lazy.” But slowing down most definitely doesn’t mean you’re lazy. We all need sleep, proper meals, exercise and some downtime to stay healthy. Here are some telltale signs that your body needs to take a breather.
1. You’re always tired.
Fatigue is perhaps the most common symptom of overworking yourself. “Stress increases bodily hormones that rev us up, so to speak, resulting in increased fatigue and desire for sleep,” says Linda Anegawa, medical director at Oahu Spine and Rehab’s integrative physical medicine practice and founder of OSR Weight Management in Hawaii. And although you might be exhausted, stress can cause you to lie in bed wide awake at night thinking about your job, bills, family—you name it.
2. You’re forgetful.
If you find yourself zoning out during a meeting or in the middle of a conversation, it could mean that you’re so overwhelmed that your brain has resorted to “snoozing” while you’re at work just to get a break, explains Ruth Spalding, a Michigan-based psychotherapist and social worker.
3. You’re always getting sick.
If it takes you awhile to recover from a cold or flu, or you get sick frequently, stress could be the culprit. It impairs the body’s immune system and can make you more susceptible to catching that nasty cold going around your office.
4. You’re not living in the present.
Stress may cause you to feel nostalgic about the simple times you once had or dream about a more relaxed life in the future, Vranich says. If you find yourself daydreaming about yesterday and tomorrow, this can be a sign that you need to slow down and enjoy today. Breaaathe.
5. Your stomach is uneasy.
If you’ve ever felt sick over a situation, you know that your emotions can cause a ton of digestive issues that make for a super-unpleasant workday. The brain and gastrointestinal system are so deeply connected, in fact, that they should be viewed as one system, according to Harvard Health Publications.
6. You’re losing hair.
In need of a lint roller or plumber for your clogged shower drain? Stress is one of the most common reasons for hair loss and can even lead to long-term loss if your on-the-go lifestyle continues, noted Anegawa.
7. Your body aches.
High levels of stress can cause tight muscles, especially in the back and shoulders. It may cause spasms and headaches, too. No fun!
So how do you fight the inclination to run on empty all the time? “The most important thing is to try to do a lot of ‘preventative maintenance’ to make sure you don’t get so stressed out you show these signs,” Spalding says. “Regularly exercising, eating well, staying hydrated, sleeping enough and getting enough love and support from friends and family are all important [for] a balanced life that allows you to roll with the punches.”
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