Can you be stressed out and not know it? Yes. However, emotions that you don’t voice or process can materialize in other ways.
Stress can wreak havoc on your physical self. Anyone who ever held the hot seat when their teacher called on them to answer a question they weren’t prepared for knows pressure triggers an immediate physiological response. Over time, these changes can lead to disease. Please learn to recognize how stress affects your body so that you can take action to regain calm when you see the signs.
1. Your Pulse Races
Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system — which is responsible for your fight or flight reflex. Your body needs to rev up blood flow to your muscles, and your heart needs to get it there.
Learn how to take your pulse by placing two fingers between the bone and tendon over your radial artery — on the thumb side of your wrist. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four. While normal resting heart rates lie between 60 and 100 beats-per-minute for adults, some athletes may go as low as 40 — learn your baseline so that you know when yours races.
2. You Develop High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure contributes to countless deaths yearly. Hypertension puts pressure on vein and arterial walls and can lead to strokes, heart attacks and failure.
Excess cortisol, a stress hormone, raises your blood pressure. Scientists previously studied the phenomenon in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, although they now believe that the hormone lurks behind other unexplained cases of hypertension.
3. You Sweat Excessively
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.” Anyone familiar with the Eminem hit “Lose Yourself” recognizes that stress affects your body by making your sweat more.
Hyperhidrosis, or excess sweating unrelated to exercise, results from many causes but can lead to social anxiety — increasing your stress levels. If you don’t know why you sweat so much, please consider talking to your doctor.
4. You Gain Excess Weight
Cortisol, that pesky stress hormone, makes your body retain sodium. Any woman who has ever suffered the PMS blues knows that excess salt makes you bloated and puffy.
Plus, this hormone prepares your body for a continued onslaught, which prompts you to eat more. Worse, you crave high-calorie foods rich in fat, salt and sugar. Before you know it, you can’t button your favorite jeans.
5. You Start Losing Hair
It’s normal to lose anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs daily, so don’t worry about a little bit on your comb. Do consider taking a break if yours starts coming out in clumps.
The effect occurs because a sudden shock affects your telogen hairs — those that aren’t actively growing but at rest. While this form of hair loss typically reverses, chronic stress can make it ongoing. Plus, some individuals develop trichotillomania, or a compulsion to tear out their hair.
6. You Feel Weak and Shaky
Think about how you’d feel after fleeing an angry bear. You’d probably collapse in a shaky heap once you reached safety.
The same thing happens when you get an adrenaline and cortisol surge from stressors like potential job loss. However, since you can’t flee most modern terrors by running away, you must find alternative means of self-care.
7. You Grind Your Teeth
Does your head constantly pound when you feel stressed? If you crack a molar, that’s a sure sign you grind your teeth when you sleep.
Grinding your teeth can result in significant pain and tooth damage. Unfortunately, many Americans struggle with the high cost of dental care and lack access to treatment. Fortunately, you can find over-the-counter mouth guards to prevent this behavior while you sleep, but you might have to try several pairs before finding one that fits.
8. You Get Sick More Often
Stress decreases your immune response. Part of the reason is that tossing and turning at night prevents your body from replenishing its store of cytokines, vital proteins for fighting infection.
Additionally, the ongoing flood of stress hormones taxes your system. Think of your immunity like an army. If it’s busy fighting battles on several fronts, it’s resources spread thin.
9. Your Stomach Revolts
While fortunately, relatively few people get so nervous that they vomit, stress can lead to gastrointestinal disorders. While you can’t control external stressors, you can take charge of your diet to keep your intestinal flora balanced.
Even though stress drives you to seek high-calorie junk foods, strive to eat a plant-based diet with tons of vegetables. Fermented foods, such as yogurt and tempeh, can help, as can beverages like kombucha. You can also find over-the-counter (OTC) prebiotic and probiotic supplements to keep your gut bacteria healthy.
10. You Shut Down
Finally, when you reach your breaking point, you might find it impossible to get out of bed. Eventually, your body raises the white flag and cries, “enough.”
Try to use stress-reduction techniques before you reach this point. However, if you do, turn to a furry friend — or text a trusted real one to get you going. Throw open your curtains and put on some lively tunes to psych yourself up to tackle another day.
Understand How Stress Affects Your Body and Watch the Signs
Recognizing how stress affects your body clues you into signs that you need a break. If you notice any of these symptoms, please, give yourself a break, focus on your breathing and indulge in a little TLC