While we all have bad days and stress is a normal part of life, when we’re overstressed it can wreak havoc in a number of ways, resulting in all sorts of physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes, when we’re under chronic stress, those symptoms are more subtle, but if they aren’t addressed it can lead to more serious issues from depression to heart problems.
These signs say that your body is trying to tell you that you’re under too much stress, and it’s time to make an effort to change things now.
If you’re suffering from a lack of sleep, it could be due to high cortisol levels caused by stress. This “stress hormone” as its often called, is supposed to decrease at night to allow your body to rest and recharge. But if the stress response is constantly “on,” your going to have a hard time sleeping.
When you’re stressed, all of that tension tends to build up, resulting in a tension or a stress headache. You know that dull, aching pain that feels like it’s wrapped around your head? If you’ve been getting these type of headaches frequently, you’re probably pretty stressed.
Your Jaw is Sore
If your jaw is sore, it’s probably because you’ve been grinding your teeth, something that’s common when you’re stressed out
Stress tends to increase inflammation, which can lead to breakouts and acne. If your skin frequently breaks out, or you develop a skin rash like eczema, it’s a sign that you’re under a lot of stress.
Your Hair is Thinning or You Have Bald Patches
If you notice that you’re hair is falling out more often, it’s thinning, or worse, you have small bald patches, it could be due to excess stress. While it may be related to a particularly stressful event, alopecia can also be the result of chronic stress, which is when the immune system starts to attack hair follicles, causing hair loss.
If you don’t have insomnia and your fatigue isn’t connected to something obvious, like running a marathon or staying up too late, it could be the result of stress.
Everyone experiences some anxiety now and again, but if you’re anxious all the time, it could be that you’re overstressed. Anxiety is just one of the many ways your body reacts to stress.
Digestive Problems or Frequent Bellyaches
If you frequently suffer from digestive woes, it could very well be due to stress. Stress can actually cause a bellyache, constipation or diarrhea. Medical director of the Digestive Health Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina Kenneth Koch, MD told Everyday Health, “Stress can affect every part of the digestive system,” adding, “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German writer, and philosopher, believed that the gut was the seat of all human emotions.”
Koch further added, “Although stress may not cause stomach ulcers, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, it can make these and other diseases of digestion worse.”
In a 2002 study reported by Prevention magazine researchers found that of the nearly 2,000 participants, those who experienced the highest levels of stress were over three times as likely to have abdominal pain as compared to their counterparts who were more relaxed. While the reason behind it isn’t totally clear, some experts believe that it’s because the intestines and the brain share nerve pathways. When your mind reacts to stress, your intestines are getting that same signal.
How to Fix It Now
If you’re seeing yourself among these signs, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Here’s how you can fix it now.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Do the best you can to let worries roll off your back. Don’t let those inevitable little things like traffic or a grumpy grocery store clerk get to you. Remember, in the scheme of things, it’s all the small stuff that adds up, building and building until you feel like your head is going to explode. Instead of worrying about everything, make the changes you’re able to and then make a decision to accept that you won’t be able to change everything. If there is nothing you can do about a perceived problem, let it go.
Focus on what’s happening right now, this very minute, and not what happened yesterday, last week or last year, or what might happen tomorrow or the next day. By concentrating on the present moment, it can dramatically reduce stress.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing offers immediate stress relief. Multiple studies have found that the practice of deeply inhaling, holding your breath and then slowly exhaling, to a count of five for each, can active lower cortisol levels which helps to reduce stress. Researchers have found that it can even lower blood pressure too.
In 2014 research reported in Frontiers in Psychology, volunteers were asked to count nine breaths in sequence. They used a keyboard to tap one key for each breath, and a different key for the last breath in each sequence, causing them to be more aware of their breath. At the end, the experts found that it resulted in a more positive mood in all the participants.
Just about any type of physical activity helps to relieve stress, but walking can be done pretty much anytime, anywhere. Even if you’re at the office, you can get up out of your chair and walk around the building or up and down the halls. At home, you can walk around the house or even up and down the stairs if the weather isn’t cooperating. Whenever you can, aim to get outside as the fresh air combined with exercise serves as kind of a “double whammy” for battling stress.
Exercise in Shorter Periods
If the thought of exercising for long periods is stressing you out, or causing you to skip it altogether, you should know that it can be just as beneficial to workout in shorter periods. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, but you can accomplish that by doing it 10 minutes (or more) at a time, for example, walking after each meal.
Get Sufficient Sleep
A lack of sleep contributes to stress, actually causing cortisol levels to rise. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night as often as you can. If you struggle, make it a point to change things by creating a more conducive environment, such as avoiding your cell phone, tablet or laptop about an hour before bedtime, and making sure all those little lights from your electronics are shut off. Wearing earplugs can be a big help if noise is preventing you from sleeping or waking you up at night too.