Weekly Wellness: Signs You Might Be Stressed
COLUMBIA- Everyone experiences stress. Stress is the body’s response to the mind’s perception of whatever we are going through. There are many different forms and levels of stress: financial troubles, relationships, health problems, work… there’s quite a list of things that can make us feel overwhelmed.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. Remember learning about fight or flight back in science class? This fight or flight response sends our body a signal that causes our brain to release chemicals and hormones. This can create actual physical signs that our stress level is too high.
The manifestation of stress can appear as:
1. Neck pain: Muscle tension is one of the first physical manifestations of stress, and it tends to be most pronounced at the base of the head.
2. Headaches: Stress is the most common cause of tension headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also trigger other types of headaches, like migraines, or make an existing headache worse.
3. Nausea: Stress can have a wide range of GI consequences because digestion is often disrupted and slowed down when your nervous system is trying to cope with stress. Irritable bowel syndrome can also be linked to stress, and those with IBS tend to have colons that are more reactive to stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
4. Hair loss: Hair loss can occur due to really long sustained periods of high levels of stress. Experiencing a life-altering event, like a death of a loved one or a huge career change, can actually cause your hair to stop growing temporarily as your body dedicates its efforts to surviving.
5. Weight gain: High stress means high levels of cortisol coursing through our veins. Cortisol is a stress hormone that prompts us to eat and retain calories.
6. Acne: Cortisol surges can also lead to cystic acne.
7. Rapid heartbeat and chest pain: The release of cortisol and other stress hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline) can cause a short-term increase in heart rate and blood pressure and cause chest pain. Over time, chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association suggests that stress can cause high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, plus encourage other habits that are linked to heart disease like smoking, physical inactivity, and overeating.
8. Insomnia: When we are stressed out, we have a difficult time turning our brain off at night.
9. Getting sick more often: Research shows that stress impacts the immune system and makes us more prone to getting sick.
10. Irregular period: Too much cortisol can interfere with the sex hormones that regulate ovulation and make your period irregular.
11. Fatigue: If you're not sleeping well, you're probably walking around all day exhausted. When you're tired, you get more irritable and it's harder to cope mentally with stress, creating a vicious cycle.
Tried and true stress relievers like exercise, mediation, taking some time for yourself, and even massage or acupuncture, can help relieve tension and calm your mind and body.