Stress is so ubiquitous in our everyday lives that there’s a good chance you don’t even realise just how stressed out you actually are. Our bodies on the other hand, know immediately when something is off, even if it takes us a while to consciously acknowledge it.
Even though our bodies are resilient and can put up with a lot, there comes a point when enough is enough, and it starts to give. No one becomes chronically ill overnight, and showing symptoms are your body’s check engine light. But unlike a car, you can’t upgrade to a new model; you can only love the one, beautiful body that you have right now. So here are the not-so-obvious signs your body might be chronically stressed:
1. IRREGULAR BOWEL MOVEMENTS
While you might associate irregular digestion with a food intolerance, chances are you are less likely to attribute your change in bathroom habits to stress. However, when you are stressed, it can lead to inflammation in the gut and a whole slew of inflammatory bowel issues. You can thank the gut-brain axis for that, as research has shown that what happens in your brain can directly affect your gut.
2. SKIN PROBLEMS
Your skin is like a window to everything that is going on inside your body, and chronic stress can affect your skin health. Not only does cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, increase your skin’s oil production, but stress also causes inflammation in your gut, which can lead to a cascade of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, acne, or autoimmune-related skin conditions like psoriasis.
3. SUDDEN INSOMNIA
Ongoing stress leads to chronically high cortisol levels, and when cortisol is high, your sleepy-time hormone melatonin is low. Further, when your cortisol is still on high alert in the evening, you’ll no doubt have trouble falling asleep.
4. FREQUENT HEADACHES
Studies have found stress to be a direct trigger for many people struggling with migraines. Stress may also contribute to sleep bruxism—the act of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth while sleeping—affecting the development of next-day headaches.
5. RINGING IN YOUR EARS
Constant ear ringing, also known as tinnitus, is not only irritating but over time can lead to uncomfortable bouts of dizziness. Research suggests that chronic stress may be associated with tinnitus symptoms. Even though researchers are still learning exactly how stress relates to tinnitus, managing stress levels has been suggested as a way to help improve symptoms.
6. THINNING HAIR
Anyone, regardless of gender, can experience one of these types of stress-related hair loss:
- Telogen effluvium: When your hair follicles stay in a state of rest, limiting the amount of hair that grows.
- Alopecia areata: An autoimmune condition that can be directly triggered by chronic stress leading to hair loss from the scalp, and in some cases, the entire body.
- Trichotillomania: When a person pulls out their own hair subconsciously or consciously during times of heightened stress or anxiety.
Thankfully, since stress-related hair loss doesn’t actually damage the hair follicles themselves, finding effective ways to manage stress can encourage hair to regrow.
7. IRREGULAR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Your brain’s hypothalamus is responsible for releasing chemicals that signal your pituitary gland to tell your ovary to release estrogen and progesterone to start your period. However, high cortisol levels can throw this delicate system out of whack leading to delayed, light, or even missed periods altogether.
8. LOW LIBIDO
High levels of stress have the potential to throw your sex hormones out of whack and affect drive. Not to mention, it can also be difficult to get in the mood when you’re distracted and have your mind elsewhere.
9. YOU GET SICK MORE OFTEN
Chronic stress decreases your immune function. Simple as that. If you are constantly stressed out, your immune system isn’t going to be prepared to fight off viruses and bacteria, making you more prone to any illness that comes your way.
Thankfully, we have the power to take control of our stress levels, whether that means leaving a stressful situation, toxic relationship, or incorporating more mindfulness practices into our daily lives. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take it as an invitation from your body to get the rest, nourishment, and care it is desperately craving.