Stress is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t wreak havoc on your mind and body. Remember the last time you went through a period of stress? Was it related to your work, family, or something else? More importantly, do you remember how you felt during that time? Chances are that you didn’t feel like yourself at all!
According to health experts, stress can come with some pretty astonishing side effects – from forgetfulness and anxiety to nausea and skin rashes – it runs the entire gamut!
You may not recognize that you are feeling stressed, but your body may be trying to send you signals through things that you might think have no correlation. However, it’s important that you do not ignore them! Sometimes, it can be as simple as combating the stress to get rid of certain ailments. You can reverse the effects through simple actions such as relaxation, breathing exercises, stretches, meditation, and more.
Here are 10 ways that your body is trying to tell you you’re too stressed:
The Mayo Clinic cites headaches as the very first sign of stress, especially when it comes to tension headaches. These headaches are triggered by what the Clinic calls “everyday irritants”, including things like traffic, workplace drama, etc. Everyday irritants are then compounded by other symptoms which can exacerbate them (more on that later).
The best way to treat nagging headaches is to bring down your stress levels, but it’s always better to seek professional help if they begin to disrupt your life.
Yes, your skin could be affected as a result of stress as well! In fact, it can be a pretty good indicator of how much anxiety you are experiencing.
“Stress can cause a rash, usually raised red spots or hives on the stomach, back, arms and face,” explains Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., MS, PT, a psychologist, and physical therapist in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “While we don’t know why it occurs, some experts believe that it has to do with the adverse effects of stress on the immune system—histamine is released, causing these itchy bumps.”
Deep breathing is a simple exercise that can help rashes from forming or slowing down their progress. Just place your high right above your belly button and inhale, then exhale, keeping in mind that you want your hand to rise every time you breathe in and lower every time you breathe out. It’s good to do this 5-10 times periodically throughout the day.
Change In Sex Drive
Being stressed out due to personal or professional matters can leak into the bedroom as well. If that is the case, you are not alone! The Mayo Clinic says that a change in sex drive is another very common symptom of stress experienced by people.
Ask any person who is trying to “do it all” and they’ll tell you they tend to forget quite a few things.
“Research shows that chronic stress can literally shrink the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for some memories,” says Dr. Lombardo. “Luckily, its size will go back to normal once your stress level reduces.”
To make sure your brain is functioning at its optimal capacity, Lombardo says that you should exercise at the first sign of stress because it is a way to keep your mind sharp. “Go for a walk, run up a flight of stairs or dance around,” she says.
Although often only temporary, an eye twitch can be irritating and worrisome. If your eye is twitching all of a sudden, it could be an indication of stress.
“This condition is known as blepharospasm (not to be confused with Benign Essential Blepharospasm—a form of dystonia),” explains Debbie Mandel, MA, a stress and wellness expert and author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. “Closing your eyes and visualizing your happiest place on earth will help.”
One way to prevent stress-related eye issues is to give your eyes a break once in a while, especially if staring at a computer hour after hour is one of your biggest stressors. Mandel suggests you “’stretch’ them every 20 minutes by looking out the window at a larger landscape.” “If you have no view, close your eyes and imagine a panorama,” he says.
Not being thorough with your dental hygiene is a surefire way to get cavities, and it’s not so farfetched to imagine that flossing every day is not the first thing on your mind when you are facing too much stress. However, another stress-related cause for cavities is grinding your teeth, which is an involuntary habit that people tend to pick up when they’re anxious.
Mandel says that it can erode dental work, damage teeth, and make them more vulnerable to cavities. In extreme situations, one could even lose their teeth (which famously happened to actress Demi Moore)!
Instead of taking your stress out on your poor chompers, Mandel suggests putting your thoughts down, pen to paper. “Set aside time to write down your problems to see them objectively in black and white, and then jot down some solutions,” she says. But, she adds, “If teeth grinding is severe, see a dentist about getting a mouthguard.”
Who among us hasn’t googled a health condition that you or a loved one is going through and stressed ourselves out about it even further? This is why, says Mandel, you shouldn’t be playing “Google MD”.
“Stress can upset the stomach, and nausea can be a byproduct of worry,” says Mandel, ” Worrying about your health or a loved one’s is normal, but obsessing about it is unhealthy.
If your anxiety is so high that you end up feeling nauseous, Mandel suggests this trick: run tepid water over your fingers; it is believed to keep nausea at bay.
Feeling sluggish throughout the day? This could be a result of stress. Mandel says that “Stress hormones cause your body to surge with adrenaline and then crash into sleepiness.”
This is also a double-edged sword because stress ruins your quality of sleep, so you may not feel rested even if you do happen to catch some zzzs. “Stress will also ruin the quality of your sleep, so you wake up tired and irritable,” says Mandel
Mandel suggests going to bed earlier or catching a 30-minute midday nap. This may help assuage some of that sluggishness, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about it! “There is great productivity in rest,” she says. “You come back more focused!”
Feeling disoriented and indecisive even with simple day-to-day tasks? This could be an indication that you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious because stress can cause distraction and a lack of focus. “Stress hormones lodge longest in the brain,” says Mandel.
Taking a walk is a great way to regain focus, she says. “Move the stress out of your body by exercising large muscle groups like the legs. You will gain clarity. Walk out in the light and you’ll reset your natural rhythm while you move out the stress. Sunlight helps the body release serotonin to improve mood, and vitamin D helps you improve your immune system—a great perk.”
That pain in your back you thought was a result of bending down one too many times to pick up your kids’ scattered toys could actually be caused by stress.
“Stress definitely affects our musculoskeletal system, resulting in tight, contracting muscles and/or spasms in muscles,” notes Dr. Lombardo. “It gets us ready for fight-or-flight, although, unlike our cavewomen ancestors, we don’t actually need our bodies to react like this.”
Try doing some simple exercises that focus on the area of pain, and enlist the help of someone else to give you some soothing massages. Again, the best thing to do would be to try and eliminate the source of your stress.