Do you know YOUR secret stress signs?

Do you know YOUR secret stress signs?

by Bianca Castro |

Stress can manifest itself in strange ways. What’s your body telling you?

You’ve been suffering with headaches. Your skin’s gone blotchy and there’s a pain in your jaw that won’t go away. Did you ever think it could be stress?

The latest research suggests that three-in-four of us have felt overwhelmed by stress recently but, while we might recognise the psychological signs of stress — such as being more irritable or emotional — the way it manifests itself in our body is often harder to recognise.

Here, Dr Deborah Lee, a GP for Dr Fox Online Doctor and Pharmacy outlines some of the hidden signs of stress and what we can do about them…

Stomach aches

Stress is known to affect gastrointestinal function. For some, stress slows down digestion, resulting in bloating or constipation, while for others, it speeds it up, causing abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Try: Focus on your food and how you’re eating it. Take time to eat slowly and chew well to aid digestion. Avoid foods which are high-fat, high-sugar or high-salt. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and drink plenty of water.

Skin problems

Wondering why you’ve suddenly developed an angry-looking rash or outbreak of acne or eczema? When you’re stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol. This dampens the effects of the immune system, causing skin inflammation to flare-up.

Try: First, have a go at managing stress with relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Using a cold-compress on affected areas can help too. Some rashes can be treated with antihistamines, while acne can be tackled with topical treatments. For eczema, have a warm bath and take an antihistamine at night to help stop scratching.

More hot flushes

Noticing more hot flushes than normal? Our body releases pulses of adrenaline when we’re stressed, and this can cause hot flushes. Consequently, women who are approaching menopause and under stress, tend to have more frequent and severe hot flushes.

Try: Where possible reduce your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine can trigger our fight-or-flight response, which can worsen stress, anxiety, and hot flushes.

Muscle tension

Feeling tense? Stress can make us clench our jaw or develop pain and tension in our neck and shoulders. Over time, the muscles can become taut and painful and go into spasm.

Try: Keep moving throughout the day and focus on stretching. Shoulder raises and rolls are good at releasing tension. If you’re grinding your teeth at night, speak to your dentist who may suggest a mouthguard.

Blurry or dry eyes

If you’re suffering with blurry vision, eye twitching, increased light sensitivity or dry eyes, it might be due to your stress levels. Chronic stress can have many effects on the eyes and can even lead to spasms, seeing stars or experiencing tunnel vision.

Try: Deep breathing exercises can help activate our parasympathetic nervous system, helping us relax. It might also be useful to see your optician or GP.

Hair loss

Chronic stress affects the hair-growth cycle. This can mean after a stressful life-event you might notice more hair falling out.

Try: The first step to dealing with hair loss is an accurate diagnosis, so see your GP. For example, hair loss may be due to thyroid disease, or iron-deficient anaemia.

If hair loss is due to stress, then managing that stress, through relaxing hobbies such as art, gardening or an exercise class may help. If a specific event, like a bereavement, has led to hair loss, you might find professional bereavement counselling helpful.

Weight gain

Stress causes weight gain because high levels of cortisol lead to an increased appetite. When you’re stressed, there’s a strong urge to eat high-fat, high-carb comfort foods. These give you a burst of sugar, but as the glucose levels fall, you’ll want to eat more.

Try: One of the best ways to deal with stress is to exercise. Aim to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as cycling, a brisk walk or an aerobics class a week.

Edited by Stephanie May

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