Why am I stressed for no reason? What’s behind “irrational” stress and ways to relieve it

Stress is a very prevalent part of life for many people, and can be a source of discomfort and strain, especially when you don’t know how to deal with it. Unless you have actively tried to establish routines and strategies for relieving stress, it’s likely that you have some lingering stress in your body, or at least some unhelpful coping mechanisms present that might be giving you short-term stress relief but heightening your stress levels over time.

Thankfully, there are many effective ways to relieve stress, even stress that may not have a clear reason for presenting itself. By sitting with your stress and exploring what its source might be, you can then effectively address the issue and release unhealthy stress.

Why Do I Feel Stressed and Anxious for No Reason?

Though anxiety and stress can often feel like they come out of nowhere, each of our feelings always have a reason for occurring. When the reasons for our feelings aren’t obvious, it can lead to confusion about what is really causing the disruption. Sometimes, the reasons can be past events that are still affecting us, or issues in the present that we’ve been ignoring or hadn’t viewed as problems that needed to be dealt with.

Anxiety or stress occur when there is an uncomfortable or emotionally fueled experience happening. Usually, we have small internal disturbances which occur at an emotional level throughout the day. Many can come and go without causing more than a small disruption, but some of these small internal disturbances can add up, creating an increased state of anxiety or mental distress over time.

What Does It Mean When You Stress for No Reason?

While it may seem that there is no root cause to your stress, the reason can become clear once you explore underneath the surface level emotions you feel day-to-day. Self-reflection, such as journaling or talking with a trusted friend who knows you well or even a mental health professional can help you identify root causes of stress, as well as help you manage it. 

If you believe you are stressed for “no reason,” it may be because you have been ignoring, either consciously or subconsciously, your stress. There is likely something in your life, either happening presently or in the recent past, that feels like a greater demand than you feel prepared to handle.

Though sometimes ignoring your stress feels like you aren’t allowing it to have purchase or affect you, this actually traps the stress in your body rather than letting go. Because of this, the stress might quietly continue to build within you, meaning that when it eventually comes out down the line, it might feel like it’s cropping up for no immediate reason.

Is It Normal to Be Stressed Over Nothing?

It’s completely normal to feel varying degrees or intensities of stress. However, it’s not sustainable to live with high amounts of stress for long periods of time.

With the rise of valuing productivity and work over personal well-being, many people don’t know how to check in with how they’re feeling, or know how to release stress from their body. However, if it feels like you are “stressed over nothing,” it is likely that there’s an underlying issue that is triggering it. 

This is why it is important to check in with yourself. Stress can start piling up much more quickly than we often realize. If unhealthy amounts of stress are allowed to linger in the body, it can lead to issues with physical health as well as mental health, and even lead to chronic stress. 

The first step to managing your stress is paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If you feel stressed, irritated, or overwhelmed, instead of trying to push on, take a moment to consider the cause of these emotions and what triggered them.

What Does Unhealthy Stress Look Like?

Unhealthy stress can be identified when certain negative or unhealthy coping practices start becoming more noticeable. A response to stress is considered unhealthy when it is prevalent for long periods of time or if it causes a person to develop maladaptive ways to cope or poor coping skills in an effort to manage the stress and keep functioning. Examples of these coping skills include:

  • Negative self-talk
  • Nervous habits like picking at skin or biting fingernails
  • Avoiding family and friends
  • Becoming irritable, taking out emotions through aggression or anger
  • Sluggishness, loss of motivation or energy
  • Excessive use of substances 

Each of these can bring on temporary relief in the short term. However, the quick feeling of relief is often followed by heightened stress levels in the long term. 

Unhealthy stress may be triggered by persistent stress which has been ignored, denied, or pushed down internally, whether on purpose or subconsciously for the purpose of functioning. It is always best to honor your current stress with proper attention and with healthy coping skills, such as: 

  • Talking it out with a trusted friend
  • Problem-solving
  • Engaging in positive self-care activities
  • Taking time to rest
  • Going for a walk or working out
  • And more 

Unhealthy, untreated stress may lead to chronic or toxic stress, which is when high levels of stress continue to occur over a long period of time, a state that is detrimental to one’s mental and physical health.

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What Are 5 Emotional Signs of Stress?

Five of the most common emotional signs of stress include the following:

  1. Mood shifts, such as heightened irritability, quickness to anger or frequently feeling annoyed.
  2. Elevated amounts of anxiety or fear, related to the stressor.
  3. Poor coping behaviors, such as emotional eating or lethargy, as a response to stress.
  4. Sleep disturbances, i.e. sleeping too much or loss of sleep.
  5. Neglecting self-care and isolating from friends, family, and/or supports.

Each of these are common signs that someone might be stressed or under pressure. That said, there are many signs of stress, which may vary from person to person. Stress affects each person differently, and will cause different reactions depending on someone’s previous experiences, emotional state, and personality. Regardless, it can be helpful to talk about what is causing the stress, whether that starts with you asking someone else about their stress levels or opening up to someone close to you about yours.

What Does Extreme Stress Feel Like? Chronic Stress Symptoms

Extreme stress may feel like intense anxiety or panic and can involve having an intense physiological reaction including but not limited to the following symptoms: 

  • Chest tightness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or sadness
  • Jitteriness
  • Increased irritability or quickness to anger
  • Poor concentration
  • Accelerated heart-rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased performance/productivity
  • Isolation from friends and family

If you have a combination of these symptoms, chronic stress could be a likely cause.

What Are the Effects of Stress on the Body?

Stress that is left unchecked can have many adverse effects on the body and lead to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, diabetes, and more. Implementing good stress management, whether you are facing large amounts of stress currently or not, is key to maintaining a healthy relationship to stress and giving yourself balance in your work in your daily life.

How Do I Stop Stressing Over Nothing? How Can I De-stress?

A wide variety of things can help de-stress. Some of the easiest and most common practices include:

  • Moving your body: Go for a walk, try yoga, take an exercise class, hit the gym, dance
  • Meditation: Try out some guided meditation; there are many guided meditations available online. You can also try simply sitting with your thoughts, letting them come up as they will, then letting them go.
  • Sleep: Get enough sleep and keep your sleep schedule to a predictable routine.
  • Nutrition: Eat regular meals and ensure you are getting enough nutrients.
  • Laugh more Find ways to make yourself laugh on purpose, whether that’s through hanging out with friends, watching funny videos, or listening to a funny or happy song. Studies have shown that belly laughs trigger endorphins which help to decrease the body’s stress response. 

Practice noticing your feelings and assessing stress levels; once you are able to recognize when you are stressed, then you can work toward relieving your stress in a healthy way and avoiding unhealthy coping skills. Find a practice that works for you, and make sure to create a habit of reaching for it when you feel stressed. Stress relief can take a huge burden off of your shoulders that you may not have realized was there, and can help you live a happier, more satisfied life.

Table of contents

Why Do I Feel Stressed and Anxious for No Reason?

What Does It Mean When You Stress for No Reason?

Is It Normal to Be Stressed Over Nothing?

What Does Unhealthy Stress Look Like?

What Are 5 Emotional Signs of Stress?

What Does Extreme Stress Feel Like? Chronic Stress Symptoms

What Are the Effects of Stress on the Body?

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Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley, LCSW

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

Laura Harris, LCMHC in Durham, NC

Laura Harris, LCMHC

Laura Harris is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). She specializes in anger, anxiety, depression, stress management, coping strategies development, and problem-solving skills.

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Hannah DeWitt

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

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