You can always tell when you’re stressed, right? Not necessarily! Chronic stress can bring about a wide range of symptoms and you won’t always link them to stress. This can mean that you ignore some of the key signs that stress is building up and carry on with your day-to-day life without taking any steps to address the situation.
How can you tell if you’re too stressed? Here are some signs that stress may be getting the better of you and what you can do to change things up.
#1 - Bleeding Gums
Do you keep finding that your gums bleed whenever you brush your teeth? It’s not always a sign that you need to up your oral hygiene game. Sometimes stress can be a factor. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can have a negative effect on your immunity and make it easier for bacteria to get into your gums. The end result? More potential for them to bleed after brushing. This extends to other types of bacterial and viral infections too. The more stressed you are, the more pressure on your immune system, which leaves you vulnerable to infections such as colds, flu’s and viral reactivation conditions like cold sores.
#2 - Random Breakouts
Suddenly finding yourself getting adult acne? Your stress levels could be a culprit. Stress increases inflammation, which can pave the way for bad skin.
#3 - Sugar Cravings
Can’t kick your sweet tooth? The more stress we experience, the more depleted our levels of neurotransmitters can be. This in turn can lead us to craving foods that will quickly increase our levels of serotonin and dopamine. Sugar works to increase both, but it comes at a cost because blood sugar swings exacerbate internal factors that contribute to stress.
#4 - Itchy Skin
Itchy skin that isn’t linked to a rash or skin condition can be another sign of stress. A Japanese study found that people experiencing chronic itching were around twice as likely to be more stressed too. For a lot of people, stress can be a physical trigger for itching.
#5 - Tummy Troubles
We know that butterflies in the stomach are linked to nerves, worry and stress, but even more longstanding troubles with digestion can be linked to stress. Researchers have found that the brain and the intestines share nerve pathways, which means that stress can trigger digestive problems. Statistics show that people who report being stressed are over three times more likely to have abdominal pain compared to people who didn’t have a lot of stress in their life.
#6 - Other Pain Issues
Other pain issues can potentially be linked to stress too. Headaches, migraines, back pain and chest pain can all fall into this category.
#7 - Painful Menstrual Cramps
According to research from Harvard University, women who are stressed are more likely to suffer from super painful menstrual cramps. It’s thought that this is linked to a stress related imbalance of hormones, which triggers the pain.
#8 - Memory and other cognitive issues
Struggling with foggy or fuzzy thinking along with memory problems? Chronic stress can affect your cognitive function and this can make it hard to focus, make decisions and remember things.
#9 - Changes in your sleep pattern
Stress can have some serious effects on how well you sleep (or not sleep!). This can take a number of different forms, from struggling to get to sleep to waking up randomly in the night. You may also find it hard to get out of bed in the mornings. If you’ve noticed changes in your sleeping patterns, it can be a sign that stress is having an effect on your life – even if you think you’re managing it.
#10 - Feeling tired and drained
Feeling physically and emotionally drained is another common side effect of stress, especially if it’s chronic. This can be partly linked to poor sleep, which often goes hand in hand with stress, but other factors can be involved also. If there aren’t any physical reasons why you’re so drained, it could well be a sign of mounting stress levels.
Do any of these experiences seem familiar to you?
By now, you may be starting to recognize signs that your stress levels have crept up to the point where your physical and emotional health are suffering. Taking stock of life factors that may be contributing to your stress levels can be a great place to start in lowering your stress level, but there are a number of other practices that can help to improve your stress resilience too.
Breathing exercises can manually over-ride the stress response, and over time, as you keep practicing, can significantly lower your body’s cortisol response levels, helping to mitigate many of the physical symptoms initiated by increased stress levels.
Eating a balanced, whole food diet can also help, as it provides the body with the raw ingredients in terms of vitamins and minerals that help us manage stress. Acute situations of high stress actually use up a lot of our vitamins and minerals so replenishing is important.
Exercise can also be helpful for managing stress levels. It can bring high cortisol levels back into balance, and reduce tension in your body.
For a more detailed explanation on ways to help cope with stress, check out my article on stress busters.
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