You’d think that the symptoms of stress are hard to miss. But that doesn’t mean we always pay attention and take appropriate action. So it helps to be reminded of some of the key symptoms you will encounter when you’re overly stressed. You can use them as ammunition to justify taking a break.

The following nine key physical warning signs are among the first ones you’ll encounter at times of great stress, and when you do, do yourself a favor and heed their loud and clear message: slow down – if you want to stay healthy, sane, and effective, that is.

  1. Is your mouth dry or do you have a lump in your throat? It may be a cliché, but It’s a cliché for a reason: when you’re stressed, your mouth becomes really dry. And a dry mouth makes it difficult to swallow anything but liquids. It’s even bad for your teeth.
  2. Are you bothered by a pain in the neck? Tense, tight muscles, especially neck and shoulder muscles are another important warning sign. To some of us it may seem like those painfully tense muscles are a permanent condition. They don’t have to be.
  3. Do you get a lot of headaches lately? While headaches can have a variety of causes, there’s one particular kind that’s aptly named “tension headache.” If the onset of your headaches correlate with periods of intense stress, you know what to do.
  4. Numbness & tingling in limbs. You may not have realized that these can be caused by too much stress. I didn’t know either until I read it during my research for this article, but it makes sense. In fact, I was relieved to read that because my limbs have been tingling and occasionally getting for a while and I was worried that it might be something serious. Well, guess what! Stress IS serious.
  5. Are you tired all the time? Do you find you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning? Chronic fatigue, exhaustion, and low energy are the inevitable result of excess stress for prolonged periods of time.
  6. Do you have trouble falling asleep or sleeping long enough? Once again, this could be a sign of too much stress. And since sleep is so crucial for recovery, stress-induced insomnia often starts a vicious cycle.
  7. Are you overweight? Especially with fat primarily accumulating on the belly? For the longest time, people used to think that stress causes weight loss, not weight gain. That may be true for some, but most of us tend to put on the pounds. Cortisol, the stress hormone, literally causes the body to accumulate the wobbly stuff right up front and center and makes it almost impossible to take it back off.
  8. Do you have heartburn, hyperacidity, GERD, or indigestion? Maybe what you need is not another dose of antacids but a massage and a nice hot bath, not necessarily in that order. And a day off.
  9. Do you get sick a lot? When someone sneezes in the office, are you the first to catch it? Do you have allergies or skin rashes? These are all signs that your immune system has begun to suffer. It’s time to take a legal U-turn.

How many of the above do you have? One? Slow down and take more breaks. Three? You’re definitely in the danger zone. All seven? Red zone alert!