Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but when it becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can wreak havoc on your body and mind. While most people are familiar with the usual suspects like headaches and muscle tension, stress can manifest in surprising and lesser-known ways. Most of the physical effects of stress come from the body natural response to being in "survival mode" of de-prioritising the immune and digestive system, which is fine if it is only temporary, but not if it is happening frequently- or even constantly- as a result of chronic or traumatic stress
This week, we'll explore some of the more unusual and often overlooked effects of stress on the body, including gastrointestinal issues, vertigo, brain fog, and more.
- Gastrointestinal Distress
Stress and digestive problems often go hand in hand. When you're under stress, your body diverts blood away from the digestive system, leading to issues like diarrhea or constipation. Chronic stress can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For some, stress-related diarrhea can be a frequent and uncomfortable symptom.
- Vertigo and Dizziness
Feeling off-balance or experiencing vertigo can be another surprising effect of stress. Stress can disrupt the inner ear's equilibrium, leading to sensations of dizziness and unsteadiness. Whilst these episodes are usually only temporary, they can be very disconcerting!
- Brain Fog
Ever had a moment where you can't concentrate, forget what you were saying mid-sentence, or struggle to recall simple details? Welcome to the world of "brain fog," a term used to describe cognitive difficulties often associated with chronic stress. Stress hormones like cortisol can interfere with memory and cognitive function, making it challenging to focus and think clearly.
- Hair Loss
Stress can take a toll on your appearance as well. A condition called telogen effluvium can be triggered by extreme stress, causing hair follicles to enter a resting phase prematurely. This results in increased hair shedding and, for some, noticeable hair loss. Hair may start to thin or fall out in clumps, further adding to the stress cycle.
- Skin Problems
Stress can wreak havoc on your skin, leading to breakouts, rashes, and worsening of skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. The stress hormone cortisol can increase oil production in the skin, making you more prone to clogged pores and acne. Furthermore, stress can exacerbate inflammation, worsening skin conditions or triggering new ones.
- Heart Palpitations
While some level of increased heart rate is a natural response to stress, chronic stress can lead to heart palpitations. This sensation of a racing or irregular heartbeat can be frightening and is often a result of the body's heightened state of alertness when under constant stress. Prolonged stress can contribute to heart problems if left unmanaged.
- Weakened Immune System
Stress takes a toll on the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. Chronic stress can suppress the immune response, leaving you vulnerable to infections and illnesses that you might typically ward off effortlessly. Frequent colds, flu, or other infections could be a sign that stress is affecting your immune function.
Managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, mindfulness, Clinical EFT, and seeking support when needed is crucial for maintaining overall well-being. By understanding the hidden effects of stress and taking steps to address your stress, you can take better care of your body and mind, ultimately leading to a happier and healthier life.
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