The secret signs you’re stressed
-Apr 29, Caroline Blight, Health -
You may think you are a very calm person who takes everything in their stride – unlike the three quarters of adults a recent UK survey found have at some point over the past year felt so stressed they were unable to cope. But despite thinking you are chilled out, you could be suffering from acute stress without even realising it.
April is Stress Awareness Month and for many of us it will seem irrelevant as we are not having the palpitations, sleepless nights and feelings of being mentally overwhelmed which we usually associate with being stressed.
In fact, it’s possible for our brain to get so used to being under stress that it seems normal – but that doesn’t mean it’s not taking a toll on your mind and body. “Stress can be very damaging to our physical and mental health,” says Kamran Bedi, a professional anxiety and wellbeing coach and author of Your Mind Is Your Home. “Over the years I have seen people seek help for physical pain and health conditions much sooner than when dealing with stress. Individuals can very easily go for years, even 20 years plus, just bottling up mental challenges, stress and anxiety but with physical challenges people tend to respond much faster. As humans, we are very good at putting on an appearance that everything is fine and that there are no issues.”
The physical signs of stress
There can be a wide range of physical reactions to stress and many we are aware of, but some can be subtle. When you’re experiencing stress, your muscles respond by involuntarily tensing up and your body produces too much cortisol. This can lead to aches and pains sometimes with no real reason. “Muscle tension as a result of stress is a common issue that the majority of adults will have suffered with at some point in life, if not on a constant basis,” explains Fi Clark, Head of Yoga at FLY LDN. “Whether you’re experiencing a particularly stressful period of your life, or like most, you have a certain level of underlying stress from the pressure of modern day living, having muscle tension that congregates around the shoulders, neck and face can be distracting at best and painful at worst. Untreated, it can lead to bad posture, headaches and migraines and will add to the level of stress you experience. While massages will help calm the muscle tension, only by removing the source of the stress can you release the tightness and pain permanently.
Our skin is the biggest organ in our body and not immune to the effects of stress either, which is why if you find your skin is drier or oiler than usual, you have blemishes which won’t disappear, stress could be the culprit. “Hormones are incredibly important in dermatology, especially when considering the role of psychological stress in triggering, or exacerbating, common skin diseases including eczema, psoriasis and acne,” explains Dr Daniel Glass (thedermatologyclinic.london). “There is increasing evidence that stress hormones such as CRH, ACTH, prolactin and substance P can aggravate skin diseases. Also stress hormones have an effect on the sebaceous glands found within the skin, which can lead to a worsening of acne levels.”
If you find yourself waking up with a headache or a stiff neck then it could well be that you have been grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist will be able to tell if your teeth are being worn away but you should also check if you have been clenching your jaw during the day too. You may be surprised to find what you thought was ‘relaxed’ is anything but.
Stress changes your behaviour
Being stressed means our brain’s stress response system is turned on almost non-stop. We use up so much energy as the stress hormones in our blood system accelerate our breathing and heart rate and our sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for mobilizing our fight, flight, or freeze responses. The result is a feeling of total exhaustion at the end of the day. If you are feeling absolutely shattered – despite not doing too much in the day – it could be the stress talking.
Stress hormones also cause a spike in the brain chemical dopamine and this in turn can cause a dip in our cognitive performance. As a result even the simplest of tasks can be difficult to manage and lead to careless mistakes and a feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated.
It’s also worth noting that stress is closely related to fear and sometimes our brains and bodies can confuse the two, leading to us being quick to anger. “’Stress can most certainly influence our emotional reactions making us express anger, frustration and even upset in situations where we become quick to react,” says Kamran.“Our concentration and sleep patterns can also become affected from the stress that we experience.”
If you feel like you can’t stop yelling at the kids and almost lost the plot when someone pulled out in front of you at that roundabout, it’s a sure sign the amygdala, the brain’s fear centre, is working overtime making you aggressive, angry, or defensive as a result. Your edgy emotional state is one of the signs you’re stressed over an imagined threat that doesn’t exist – and it might be time to work on those destressing exercises after all. Also remember your Lumity supplement contains a careful balance of nutrients which can help your body and mind cope with stress.