We live in the “Age of Anxiety” where all of us seems to be stressed all the time! Believe it or not, stress by itself is not a bad thing; in fact a small amount of stress is good since it boosts your mental and physical performance. The problem is when you are stressed all the time – this is what doctors refer to as chronic stress.
Chronic stress causes immense health damage and the worst thing about it is that it can creep up on you. Do these symptoms of stress seem all too familiar?
Signs That Your Stress Is Getting The Better Of You
“Research shows that the frequency & severity of tension headaches is directly associated with levels of stress”
Don’t assume that your frequent headaches are caused just by the movie marathon nights; instead, it could be because you’re constantly stressed out about work deadlines and deliverables. Stress causes your muscles to contract and contractions in the muscles of your neck and head regions lead to stress headaches that are also known as tension headaches.
These headaches feel like a clamp squeezing the back of your head or your forehead. Research shows that the frequency of these headaches depends entirely on your level of stress.
Digestive Distress: Diarrhea, Constipation & Nausea
“Chronic stress increases stomach acid production, resulting in a variety of digestive problems, including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and possibly vomiting”
That feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you make eye contact with a cute guy – that is caused by stress! Crazy, right? Unlike the temporary stress caused by a hottie, chronic stress will not just result in a little tummy flutter.
Stress increases the amount of stomach acid your body produces, which in turn results in digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. Your tummy troubles are likely to get worse when you are particularly stressed and you may even vomit when you are completely stressed out.
Muscle Aches In The Neck And Shoulders
“Tightening of neck & shoulder muscles is a natural response with stress, which becomes problematic when stress is prolonged or chronic”
Stress is literally a pain in the neck! If your neck and shoulder muscles are constantly tense and aching, it’s most likely because of stress. Stress causes your body to go into the ‘fight or flight’ response.
This is a natural reaction that is meant to protect you, but when you are constantly stressed, it causes extreme muscle tension in your neck and shoulders, which is why these muscles ache all the time. Standing under a hot shower will help to ease the tension in these muscles although a relaxing neck massage from your spouse would be even better!
Frequent Cold & Cough
“High levels of stress hormone corticosteroid lowers the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes, weakening immune response”
If ‘flu season’ for you lasts from Jan to Dec, it’s safe to say that your immunity levels are not what they should be! People who are constantly stressed are prone to every bug that goes around. This is because their immunity is shot to pieces.
Your body produces several types of white blood cells called lymphocytes that ward off pathogens and prevent infection. But chronic stress increases your levels of the stress hormone corticosteroid, which lowers the production of these lymphocytes , leaving you with low immunity levels.
Poor Hair & Skin health
“Constriction of the blood vessels associated with stress restricts blood flow to functions deemed ‘non-vital’; this includes the hair & skin, giving it a dull lifeless appearance”
While we do not fully understand the role of dopamine in stress, we do know that it plays several important roles including the redirection of blood flow. It increases the blood flow to certain vital areas by dilating the blood vessels in these regions.
Simultaneously, it constricts the blood vessels to decrease blood flow to “non-vital” functions, such as for skin and hair. Dull and lifeless skin and hair are among the most common stress-related complaints in both men and women.