These subtle clues can affect your mental health and your work performance.

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In the past two years, many of our working situations have drastically changed. When the pandemic first started, most Americans started working remotely from home—except for essential workers, of course. It may seem obvious, but stress can dramatically affect your day-to-day, whether you've gone back into the office or are still performing all your job duties from your at-home office. In fact, you might be experiencing more stress than you realize, and that can harm your job performance, which can make you feel even more pressure. It's called a stress cycle, but recognizing the signs and can help break the series. Some signs of stress are pretty recognizable, but others might surprise you. Here are five signs of stress to watch out for at work.

woman working from home on a laptop
Credit: Pekic/ Getty Images

1. You've Forgotten Tasks

Forgetfulness actually can include a number of possible symptoms: difficulty concentrating, poor organization, and apathy. Stress isn't the only possible reason for an abnormal amount of forgetfulness at work, but as Harvard Health notes, it can absolutely be related to stress and anxiety. Stress can make it difficult to both store new information and retrieve old information. In other words, you might forget things. Physically jotting down your to-do list can help. Try the Control Your Chaos To-Do List Notebook ($5, Target) to help you get organized.

2. Small Things Really Get Under Your Skin

Whether it's someone taking your coffee cup or your boss not responding to emails as quickly as you'd like, we all have a fairly consistent idea of how small irritations should make us feel. If you've been noticing that little things have been really throwing you off, sending you into fits of anger and grumbling, the reason might be stress. Stress and anxiety, says the Calm Clinic, put your emotions right on a knife's edge of control. Small things wouldn't normally send you reeling, but stress can exacerbate irritability.

3. You’ve Been Taking More Sick Days

This one might seem obvious. If you're experiencing high levels of stress, you may find it difficult to go to work and thus take a sick day. But you might actually be sick and just not realize that your physical and mental well-being are tied together. The Mayo Clinic has an in-depth explanation of the side effects of stress, including chest pain, muscle tension, irritability, and an upset stomach. And, of course, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, make sure you stay home.

4. You’re Having Trouble Communicating with Coworkers

Communication is a multifaceted thing, and there are many ways to muck up what would normally be a smooth interaction. Stress can reduce your sleep, which can increase your irritability level and amount of patience; it can cause feelings of isolation; it can reduce your ability to sense social cues. If you've felt like you're harming your interpersonal relationships at work, this might be why.

5. Making Decisions is More Difficult

Difficulty making decisions is linked with depression, anxiety, and stress. Even small decisions can feel overwhelming, adding to what already feels like a tenuous mental place. You also may not really feel capable of making decisions, due to other stress symptoms, like forgetfulness and apathy.

What's important about these five symptoms is recognizing them for what they are: symptoms, not causes. Simply trying to deal with these symptoms won't solve an underlying problem of stress; symptoms will just emerge in other forms. If you're looking for help managing stress, there are many options, including talking to a mental health professional.

Comments (2)

September 22, 2021
Very true. Stress and fatigue interact together equals a recipe for burn out.
September 22, 2021
Very true. Stress and fatigue interact together equals a recipe for burn out.