7 Things That Look Like Stress But Aren’t!

Let’s be blunt about the reality of mommy’s life. Being a mom is tough. Whether you are a WFH or a stay-at-home mom, it is fair to say that you probably have more responsibilities than you need. You must juggle caring for your children and managing the household. More often than not, moms are also stepping in when it comes to looking after aging relatives. Balancing the need of two opposite generations can be exhausting! The sandwich generation, aka the generation you’re in, has a hard job looking after everyone! So, of course, you find yourself stressed out and exhausted. 

Yet, it’s important not to confuse your daily stress with potential health issues. Stress can contribute to weakening your immune system, which makes you more vulnerable to viruses, bugs, and infections. As a result, you may feel under the weather. Unfortunately, it is easy to neglect oneself when you’re caring for others. “It’s okay, it’s only stress,” you tell yourself. But what if it isn’t only stress? Here are 10 issues that might look like stress or fatigue but aren’t. 

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You struggle to fall asleep

Most people naturally assume that stress is the reason their mind refuses to sleep at night. In reality, there could be a different culprit. Consider your daily routine. 

If you tend to use a screen until the moment it’s time for bed, your exposure to blue light could affect sleep quality. Indeed, 9 in 10 Americans use an electronic device in the bedroom shortly before trying to fall asleep. Perhaps, you’re browsing social media or reading your emails. However, the blue light emitted by your screen directly affects your sleep cycles. Blue light stimulates your sense of alertness, which could interfere with your sleep. Your brain becomes alert, and the body can’t release melatonin, the sleep hormone. 

When it comes to stress, it’s not necessarily stress that stops you from sleeping. It could be the other way round. Sleep deprivation can also affect your stress levels. Cortisol levels go down during your sleep. Unfortunately, if you struggle to sleep, your stress levels remain elevated. 

You have frequent headaches

What is your go-to drink during the day? If your answer is coffee, you are one of many! The average American drinks a little over 3 cups of coffee per day. However, as a stay-at-home parent, you are more likely to have access to a coffee machine than someone who works in an office. Are you drinking more 4 cups or more in a day? 

Coffee sensitivity could be the source of your headaches. Not everyone will develop caffeine headaches. However, if you are a heavy coffee drinker, it may be a good idea to reduce your consumption and see if it makes a difference. While coffee promotes alertness, too much of it can dramatically increase your blood flow. In excess, caffeine can be dangerous to your health. Ideally, you want to aim for 400 mg of caffeine or less in a day, which is roughly four cups of brewed coffee. 

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You always need to pee

Of course, you do. Urinating is bound to happen when you drink water. True, but frequently and urgently needing to go to the bathroom could be a sign of a urinary tract infection. Many people mistake their symptoms and blame it on stress. Indeed, the common UTI symptoms include urgently needing to urinate, pain in the side, and fatigue. It is easy to see why you might blame stress on these. However, you may want to pay close attention to your health. While stress can lead to stomach pain, UTI-related pain tends to be located around the pelvic area or the lower abdomen. Additionally, as UTI is a bacterial infection, your body may also develop a slight fever. 

UTIs can be dangerous if they are left untreated. The bacteria could travel up the urinary tract and reach your kidneys. UTIs are common infections, and they are easy to treat with medical assistance. So, don’t blame it on stress and delay treatment!

You have a rash

Do you find yourself scratching the same itchy red patch on the back of your hand? Rashes are unpleasant. They are especially tricky to diagnose. Indeed, rashes can be caused by stress. But they can also be linked to an allergic reaction. Being able to pinpoint the cause of your rash will ensure you can find treatment. So, if you assume it’s linked to your stress levels, you might think that it’s here to stay. 

However, here are a few things you might want to consider instead:

  • Contact allergy could be a cause. This happens when you’ve touched an irritant such as a chemical product or poison ivy. It may be worth removing your household products one by one to see if it makes a difference. 
  • You may have an allergy or intolerance to something you eat or use. The allergy isn’t severe enough to lead to anaphylactic shock, but it can be the underlying cause of the rash. Some of the common culprits include dairy products and hair dye. 

You feel nauseous

Stress can affect your gut health and your appetite. It isn’t uncommon for people to vomit when they experience a severe emotional shock. However, stress is not necessarily the reason why you frequently feel nauseous. 

Essentially, nausea is an indication that something feels off. Your body is likely to create a nausea sensation when it needs to get rid of “a poison”. When the body thinks it has been poisoned, it actively targets the suspected source. The most common occurrence is when people get sick after drinking too much alcohol. However, it can also happen with allergens. You might have a mild food allergy that you are not aware of. So, it may be helpful to get your allergies tested so you know what to avoid. 

Another situation that can trigger nausea is when the brain struggles to make sense of the motion signals. When you are in a car, for example, the brain receives contradictory signals that you are in motion (the car is moving) but immobile (you are sitting). This can lead to motion sickness. Your balance system is in the inner ear. It could be affected by an infection or be out of balance. 

Your heart rate is elevated

Stress can make your heart beat faster. However, stress is a short-lived event. Your heart might beat faster when you’ve suddenly heard your baby screaming, for instance. But the elevated heart rate is temporary, and your heart should come down to its baseline naturally. 

When your heart rate is frequently elevated during the day without any prompting events and for a prolonged period of time, it isn’t a case of just being stressed out. Indeed, it could be a variety of issues you should consider:

  • Anxiety disorder can lead to sudden and long-lasting rises. It is something that can also affect your breathing and your ability to focus. 
  • Heart diseases and disorders are more frequently at cause with abnormally high heartbeats. If you are unsure, it can be a good idea to use a fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate. The tracker can also provide data that you can share with your doctor for a diagnosis. 

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You are easily irritated

Some days are so much that you find yourself snapping back at your children. We’ve all had a bad day once in a while. Of course, you don’t want to lose your temper, but you can’t always help it. When that happens, the best thing to do is to apologize and explain why you reacted the way you did and why it was wrong. 

But what if it keeps happening? What if you feel angry and irritated all the time? Irritability can occur when you are under a lot of stress. However, it is a reaction of the moment. You are stressed at a specific moment and become irritable then. When your foul mood lingers for longer than it should, it could be something else. Irritability often appears in mental health conditions such as depressive disorders.

Contrary to common belief, depression is not only feeling sad and down. Irritability is often an overlooked symptom. Depression can be described as a mood disorder that impairs the regulation of your emotions. As a result, you can lose interest in your hobbies, experience hopelessness, and a form of anger turned inward, but that often explodes outwards too. If any of these symptoms feel familiar, you may want to talk about it with your doctor. 

Stress is a complex emotion that is likely to affect the daily life of the sandwich generation. However, stress is also a catalyst that can weaken your physical and mental health, making you more likely to develop any of the conditions mentioned above. Take the time to get to know your body and your mind. Ask yourself how you truly feel before blaming your issues on stress. It could be something else! 

Let this be a reminder that the sandwich generation must learn to prioritize their needs. You can’t look after your loved ones if you neglect your health. 


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