Stress has come to be accepted as a regular part of daily life in our fast-paced society, but are we putting ourselves at risk by allowing this to continue? With approximately 77% of Americans reporting that they regularly experience physical symptoms directly caused by stress in their lives, this may be a bigger problem than we choose to let on.
While it’s easy to shrug off the stress that we are experiencing due to the fact a large number of Americans share our struggles, that doesn’t mean that there will be no long-term impact on our lives. In fact, while stress is often thought of as an ailment of the mind, it can have a serious long-term physical impact if it isn’t managed properly.
Pay attention to these 14 physical signs that you’re suffering from overwhelming stress:
#1 – Premature Aging
This is the result of the body’s defense mechanism when handling times of crisis. When you are under extreme stress, the body will redirect the flow of blood to your vital organs. The result is that parts of your body, like your skin, don’t receive the usual blood flow which can lead to free radicals and oxidants causing lines and wrinkles. We may joke that being stressed ages you, but there’s some truth to the joke!
#2 – Jaw Pain or Stiffness
There are different ways that we respond to moments of stress or anxiety, and for some, this response is gritting our teeth or clenching our jaw. Not only is that annoying in the moment, but it can cause pain or stiffness in your jaw for days to follow.
#3 – Unable to Exercise
You may have once prioritized exercise in your life, but you just can’t bring yourself to make the time anymore. It’s a combination of things – the fact that you are perma-exhausted and can’t fathom coming up with the energy to keep up with your old workout schedule along with the additional stress created by taking time away from being ‘productive’ to workout.
#4 – Aches and Pains
High levels of stress will cause the body to release the hormone cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone.’ This particular hormone has been associated with increased inflammation in the body, which, in turn, causes pain, especially in the joints. Unfortunately for some, these aches and pains actually lead to more stress, leading to a negative cycle.
#5 – Poor Sleep
If you are dealing with a significant amount of stress, this can actually impact your ability to sleep. In fact, experts have identified stress as one of the more common causes of insomnia. The good news is that it is directly proportional – help to rid your life of some of the stress and you will begin to sleep better.
#6 – Decreased Libido
When stress influences the hormones in your body, this can impact many different areas of the body. One of the more obvious connections is your sex drive. Studies show that while under stressful conditions many people report lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction.
#7 – Inability to Lose Weight/Gaining Weight
If you’ve been working on trying to lose those last few pounds, your stress level may be hindering your efforts. Chronic or extreme levels of stress have been found to prevent weight loss, or even cause those who are suffering to put on a few extra pounds.
#8 – Frequent Sickness/Decreased Immune System
Research shows that high levels of stress can actually weaken the body’s immune system response, leaving you susceptible to infections, viruses and sicknesses. Furthermore, studies show that high levels of stress can lead to an increased level of inflammation in the body, which can promote the development of a number of diseases.
#9 – Exhausted
Even if you are able to get a good night’s sleep, living in a state of constant stress is nothing short of exhausting. With your mind constantly worrying about what’s happening, what you need to do, whether what you’ve already done is enough, etc., no amount of sleep is enough.
#10 – Headaches
Studies show that those who experience chronic or extreme stress are more likely to experience frequent, unrelenting headaches. In fact, one study focusing on 267 participants that suffer from chronic headaches discussed that there was a stressful event that proceeded the development of this condition in 45% of cases.
#11 – Digestive Issues
For those that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), stress is often a mitigating factor for a flare-up. They aren’t the only ones that will notice changes in their digestive system. High levels of stress have been associated with increased constipation, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain.
#12 – Dull Skin
Did you realize that you may actually be able to see signs of stress in your face? I’m not talking about your facial expressions. Stress has been associated with dry, blotchy complexion, flaking skin and dark circles under the eyes.
#13 – Acne
Speaking of skin and reading your stress on your face, stress causes a shift in your hormones which can lead to a sudden increase in acne. On top of that, stress causes your body to produce more natural oils, and oily complexions experience more blocked pores and blemishes.
#14 – Rapid Heartbeat
Anytime that there is a change involving your heart, you can bet that this is a situation you should take seriously. Studies show that being exposed to high levels of stress can lead to a faster or irregular heartbeat. These changes to your heart rate can also cause high blood pressure and other problems within the body’s circulatory system.