Mental stress has become a normal part of our lives today. The demands and expectations from us at college, work, socially, and personally continue to increase unendingly. Added to this is the pressure of social media, of leading eventful and meaningful lives. It is easy to forget to slow down in the midst of the chaos of modern existence.
Stress can build up in our system without us even realizing it. While a small amount of stress is good as it motivates us to stay focused on our tasks and goals, excessive and prolonged stress is unhealthy and can have severe adverse affects on our health.
We may not feel the effects of stress immediately, but there’s a high chance that our body is showing subtle signs.
It’s important to recognize these early signs and take corrective action at the proper time. Here is a list of subtle, outward signs that indicate unhealthy stress.
1. Unexplained aches and pains
If we are under constant stress, we may experience unexplained body aches. Our nervous system can’t distinguish between emotional and physical threats. As a result, our muscles become tense. This muscle stiffness causes body aches and pains.
Headaches are a common symptom of stress. Several studies have linked headaches to anxiety and depression. While some headaches are directly triggered by stress, there are other types of headaches as well. (For instance, migraine headaches and secondary headaches are not caused by stress. Stress can increase a migraine headache but it’s not the main cause of it. Secondary headaches are caused by strokes and brain tumours.)
3. Rapid heartbeat
Rapid heartbeat is the first thing we notice when we’re experiencing chronic stress. Chest pain and heart palpitations are common signs of stress and anxiety.
When we’re stressed, our brain releases cortisol and other stress hormones that cause rapid heartbeat. If you experience random panic attacks or rapid heartbeat, know that it may be a signal of chronic stress.
4. Feeling tired all the time
When our mind is full of stress and worries, there is no room for productivity. Stress draws a lot of energy from our body and causes us to feel tired all the time. So feeling sleepy or tired all the time may be a sign of stress.
5. Upset stomach
It’s hard to believe, but our digestive system is closely linked to our mental health. Stress triggers the release of the hormone adrenaline in our body, which slows down the function of the digestion system, causing gas and bloating. It may even lead to cramps and diarrhoea.
Studies have shown that children exposed to stressful situations are at increased risk of digestive problems.
If you experience nausea, abdominal pain, and bloating frequently, know that it may be a subtle sign of mental stress. Mental stress in early life can affect how the body and nervous system react to stress. This increases the chances of digestive disorders later on in life.
6. Excessive sweating
When in a stressful situation, our body perceives it as a physical threat and releases the adrenaline hormone to fight it. This spike of adrenaline activates our body’s sweat glands, especially in some parts, such as the armpits, hands, palms, and feet. Too much sweating could be a sign of stress.
When we are under a lot of stress, our mind and body get tired quickly. As a result, we become sleepy and are not motivated to get up from bed in the morning. We might experience some signs of depression as well, which are a clear sign of stress.
Now, the opposite also happens. For some people when they are stressed, the first thing to go is an uninterrupted, good night’s sleep. And it makes sense. When we are worried about something, we end up thinking about it all the time, get worked up about it, and as a result, our sleep gets disrupted.
8. Changes in libido
Even though sex is an excellent stress reliever, one of the things that goes haywire, when we are stressed, is our libido or sex drive.
Different people experience changes in libido differently because of stress.
As stress makes us tired, some of us find ourselves craving sex less often than we usually do. Stress is also closely linked with problems in arousal and sexual satisfaction. This could happen due to the spike in the stress hormone cortisol.
On the other hand, some people could find themselves with an increased appetite for sex. Everyone experiences it differently, but recognizing the impact of stress on one’s libido is key.
Shedding hair is healthy and normal. Both men and women experience hair loss throughout life. But when we start to lose more hair than before, it could be stress induced.
While hair fall and stress are linked to each other, not all hair loss is caused by mental stress. There are mainly three types of hair loss that are associated with stress.
Telogen effluvium — This condition occurs when high-level stress pushes the majority of hair follicles into a resting phase. It means the follicles don’t produce new strands of hair. Over time, hair falls out quickly just by touching, washing, or combing it.
Trichotillomania — A psychological disorder that occurs due to extreme stress. When we go through this condition, we tend to literally pull out our hair because of stress. Teenage girls are known to suffer from this condition when dealing with negative emotions such as anxiety and stress.
Alopecia areata is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. There can be many reasons for alopecia areata, including severe stress and anxiety.
Some people suffering from this condition develop bald spots, while in other cases it causes thinning of hair.
10. Rashes and skin disorders
People suffering from chronic stress, often develop a condition called ‘stress rash’. In this condition, the skin develops hives or rashes with an itchy feeling.
Stress can also show in the form of sudden or increased acne or pale skin.
All of us experience stress at some point or the other. Mental stress is challenging, but we need to remember that it can be managed with the right steps. Most importantly there are ways we can manage stress in a timely manner if we know and recognize the symptoms early on.
Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only. Lokyatha has observed best effort due diligence and all health related content is reviewed by a trained professional before publishing. However, this should not and can not replace personalized medical help. Please refer to a professional in all cases of need.