6 Signs That You’re Stressed And Need A Holiday
By Jennifer Abbasi
When you’re stressed, your body takes the hit – and not always in obvious ways. Watch for these strange signs that you’re more frazzled than you realise.
Because stress is so common, you may think that if you’re not lying on the floor from exhaustion, you’re probably fine. But stress creeps up, and it’s not just a mental or emotional issue – it can impact your body in some very visible (and bizarre) ways.
In fact, one study found that stress and other negative emotions were consistently linked to poor physical health in more than 150,000 people in 142 countries. “One of the biggest problems I see in my practice is women coming in with multiple physical signs of stress,” says psychiatry professor Nancy Molitor.
Think this could be you? Keep an eye out for these sneaky red flags…
1/ Stomach Aches
Why? The brain’s nervous system is linked to the gut’s, so mental stress can wreak havoc on your GI tract, says gastroenterologist Dr Bincy Abraham.
Your Fix: Depending on your situation, your doctor may treat your tummy troubles with over-the-counter drugs (stool softeners), prescriptions (such as anti-nausea meds), or dietary changes (fibre can restore your gut’s stress-ravaged helpful bacteria).
In the meantime, the best natural remedy for stress-caused constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting is. . .exercise. It may sound like the last thing you want to do when your stomach is aching, but heading out for a run can boost endorphins that make the mind and gut feel better.
2/ Hair Loss
Why? Super-high levels of sex hormones called androgens, which zoom up during stress, could mess with hair follicles to prompt temporary hair loss, says dermatologist Dr Roberta Sengelmann. (Shedding around 100 strands a day is normal.)
Your Fix: There’s no one food or supplement that’s proven to restore your locks, but eating a balanced diet can help cell growth and healing.
3/ Eyelid Twitching
Why? These annoying muscle spasms typically occur around one eye and last for a few minutes. Stress is one of their most common causes, though doctors aren’t quite sure why.
Fix it: When a twitch strikes, close your eyes, try to relax, and breathe deeply. Inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this four times while using a fingertip to put mild pressure on the lid that’s twitching.
OTC artificial tears can also help ease the spasms, which dry eyes can exacerbate, says ophthalmologist Dr Anne Sumers. If the twitching spreads to other parts of your face, see a physician – it could be a more serious type of spasm.
Why? Just like your hair, your skin is sensitive to those higher-than-normal androgens, which can bring on breakouts, says Sengelmann. Stress can short-circuit your immune system, causing dormant skin issues to act up.
Your Fix: Talk to your dermatologist if your zits keep coming back – the chronic inflammation can lead to scarring. (As hard as it is, resist the urge to pop the suckers, which only adds to the inflammation. And you’re more likely to end up with scarring when you’re stressed and your body’s ability to heal isn’t at its peak.) Oral and topical prescription meds, as well as certain soaps, can help unplug pores and wipe out the bacteria that cause acne.
Your dermatologist might also suggest you go on birth control, or switch up what you’re already on, to balance out your hormones. And be sure to stick to noncomedogenic (i.e., non-pore-clogging) makeup, moisturisers, and sunscreen.
5/ Back Pain
Why? The hormones your body pumps out when you’re stressed produce a fight-or-flight response, which – along with raising your blood pressure and heart rate – tightens up your muscles. “If you’re trying to outrun a predator, that’s good,” says pain and rehab specialist Dr Joanne Borg-Stein.
“But if it’s all the time, that sort of chronic stress response can lead to pain.” Plus, muscle aches are par for the course if you’re hunched over at your desk all day worrying about deadlines.
Your Fix: Movement is the best remedy, so if your back is in knots, stand up every hour and do some stretches – reach your arms over your head, touch your toes, roll your neck and shoulders. Also try to get in a 10- to 15-minute walk around the office or outside once or twice a day.
Why? Stress can throw your immune system – not to mention your skin’s defenses – out of whack. When these are lowered, you could become susceptible to rash-causing skin infections caused by staph. On the flip side, if your immunity goes into overdrive, your skin will become more sensitive, making a dormant issue like eczema act up.
Your Fix: In either case, bland emollients, including gentle OTC moisturizers, can help you heal. “If that doesn’t help, or if the rash is accompanied by a fever or other flu-like symptoms – chills, sweating – see your doctor right away,” advises Sengelmann.
Looking for a workout to help bust that stress? Try this 20-minute stress busting cardio workout.