How to tell if your body is stressed
These past few months have been pretty stressful. Between a global pandemic and rising unemployment rates, people are way more stressed than they usually are. You might notice that your energy levels have been dropping, and your muscles are painfully tight. These are classic signs that you're stressed. But what about ringing in your ears? Or digestive issues? Those are lesser-known symptoms of stress, too. Here are eight strange signs that signal your body is stressed out:
1. You're breaking out more often
When you're stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone called cortisol that sends signals to your skin's sebaceous glands to kick into overdrive. This leads to more acne, flushing, eczema, or other skin conditions that can ruin a Zoom date.
2. You're losing your hair
Days or weeks of feeling stressed out can cause you to shed a lot of hair, and that hair loss can last up to three months after a stressful event or period. Luckily, though, your mane will usually grow back once your stress subsides.
3. Your brain literally shrinks
Continuous stress leads to decreased gray matter volume in your brain over time. Gray matter is partially responsible for emotion regulation, contributing to higher rates of depression.
4. You're experiencing digestive issues
Stress triggers the release of a chemical called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) that messes with your intestinal functioning. That's why some people under intense stress may develop diarrhea.
5. You're feeling run down
When you catch a cold, all the nasty symptoms you experience are a result of your immune system trying to create an inhospitable environment for the bug by producing an inflammatory response. Stress also causes an uptick in your inflammation levels, which means your body acts more severely to cold viruses. Your cold symptoms may even last longer.
6. Your ears ring
Research has shown that chronic stress can lead to increased ringing and other hearing problems. That's because, when you're stressed, the limbic region of your brain shifts into overdrive when you experience ear ringing, and that part of the brain is also known to handle aspects of stress regulation.
7. Your cuts aren't healing
Accidentally nicked your finger? Noticed it's healing slowly? Your body's natural stress response is to draw water away from your skin's outer layers as a way to keep you hydrated in an emergency situation. But this inhibits your skin's ability to regenerate and repair itself.
8. Your stomach is upset
Stress chemicals can seriously mess up your digestive system. That's why stress can lead to an angry belly or the urge to throw up. The fight-or-flight chemicals your body releases when you're stressed might prompt your digestive system to hold onto calories and other energy sources.
These signs mean you need to chill out
Experiencing any of the above signs means you need to chill out. Science-backed ways to destress include exercising regularly, meditating, engaging in yoga, and talking to a psychotherapist. Find one or two ways to cope with stress that work for you and watch these weird symptoms disappear.
- "10 Weird Ways Your Body Reacts to Stress," Shape, n.d.