Stress affects all of us. It can be mild for one person and severe for another. Its impact is so strong that long-term stress can take a heavy toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. However, identifying the stressors in your life can help reduce their harmful effects. Know the signs and symptoms of stress to handle it better for a healthier and happier life.
On World Mental Health Day 2023, Health Shots get in touch with Dr Manjusha Agarwal, Senior Consultant- Internal Medicine, Global Hospitals, Parel Mumbai, to know how to identify stress.
Here are 8 common signs and symptoms of stress that you should be aware of:
If you notice an increase in headaches and migraine episodes, know that this is one of the most obvious signs of stress, says Dr Agarwal. According to studies released by the National Library of Medicine, migraine patients report significant levels of stress, particularly those suffering from chronic stress. These headaches can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and can be a persistent issue. Try to get enough sleep and rest and keep yourself hydrated to deal with it.
Stress and your sleep cycle are closely linked. It can adversely affect your sleep quality, leading to insomnia or poor-quality sleep. Stress can increase the risk of anxiety, negative thoughts, and worries which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Both stress and poor sleep quality can cause mental and physical health problems. To improve your sleep cycle, go to bed on time, practice meditation before bed, and limit screen exposure before sleep.
No matter how much you take care of your skin, stress, especially chronic stress, can negatively affect it. This is your body’s way of telling you that it is overwhelmed and needs a break. When you are under stress, the sympathetic nervous system of the body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into your body. These hormones increase the production of skin glands, which leads to clogged pores and acne breakouts. Apart from this, stress takes a toll on your immune system, which increases skin issues. Follow a proper skincare routine, eat a healthy diet, and practice meditation to reduce stress.
There is a strong connection between your gut and brain, and stress can significantly affect your digestive system. Symptoms like stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation can be caused by a high level of stress. To manage stress, stay hydrated, practice meditation, or get professional help if needed.
“Feeling like you’re on an emotional roller coaster? Stress has the power to turn even the most composed individual into an emotional wreck. If you find yourself crying at the drop of a hat, experiencing sudden mood swings, or feeling overwhelmed by emotions, consider that these emotional outbursts may be stemming from underlying stress,” says Dr Agarwal. To manage your mood, follow a healthy workout routine, stay calm, and do whatever you like to stay relaxed.
Chronic stress is a big contributor to heart health issues or high blood pressure. It triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. If your BP is constantly high, check with your doctor for proper treatment. To prevent high BP caused by stress, follow a regular exercise routine, eat healthy, and meditate.
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“People have moments where they forget things or struggle to concentrate, but if it becomes a recurring issue, it could be because of high levels of stress. When the mind is preoccupied with worry and anxiety, it becomes harder to focus on the tasks at hand and retain information effectively,” explains Dr Agarwal.
Stress can have a significant impact on your sexual health, often leading to a decreased libido. Stress causes hormonal imbalance, which can affect your mood and make you less interested in sex life. You may even feel less happy and find it difficult to communicate with your partner. Open communication with your partner and stress-reduction techniques can help address this issue and improve intimacy.
Muscle tension and body pain are physical symptoms of stress. You may feel the pain, especially around the head, neck, shoulder, and back. Regular exercise, stretching, and massages can help relieve these physical symptoms of stress.
Stress can even cause changes in your appetite. Some individuals may overeat as a coping mechanism, leading to weight gain, while others may lose their appetite, resulting in weight loss. Be mindful of your eating habits and make sure you are not overeating or eating less. Follow a balanced diet to stabilize your stress levels.
Apart from these symptoms of stress, you may also experience panic attacks, chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing, feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless, loneliness, agitation, anger, feeling like crying, an inability to breathe, blurred eyesight, or sore eyes, low energy, and nausea. Dr Agarwal says, “Remember that recognsing the signs of stress in our lives is crucial for maintaining our overall well-being.”