A whole host of physical symptoms can be caused by stress (Picture: Getty)
We all know stress is bad. And we know what it feels like to be stressed.
Your brain is too full of thoughts, you’re worried about not having enough time to do everything, you have anxiety and fear about your workload, home life, or romantic situation
But stress shows itself in more ways than one. The mental manifestations of this emotion are well known – the racing thoughts, the never-ending mental checklist – but the physical manifestations are frequently forgotten about.
Stress takes an enormous toll on the body – and results in real, physical symptoms.
‘There are a number of physical symptoms that are linked to stress, with most people may not realising that this is the case, they might put it down to something else,’ says Abbas Kanani, superintendent pharmacist at Chemist Click.
‘Some physical symptoms of stress are: Chest pain and heart palpitations, muscle pain, shortness of breath, a numbness or tingling on the skin, dizziness, headaches, sleeping problems, feeling weak and an increased temperature along with sweating and shivering.
‘Out of these symptoms the ones that you might not realise are linked to stress would be weakness, muscle pain, heart palpitation’s and shortness of breath.
‘Other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and sleeping problems are thought more as common side-effects of stress, as these are most experienced by a person who is stressed out, especially headaches and sleep issues.
‘It’s important to keep an eye out for all symptoms and if they persist to speak to your GP on how you can get a better understanding to what is causing your stress and how you can help combat it.’
The physical symptoms of stress
Stress can result in many physical symptoms, some of which are less well known.
For example, stress, particularly chronic stress, can aggravate many skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and even acne.
‘Some of us might break out in hives in response to the physical impact of stress,’ Dr Beverley Flint from HelloSelf, tells Metro.co.uk.
It is well known that stress can also cause problems with our digestive systems.
‘People can often be left feeling very nauseous when stressed, and can also experience very loose stools,’ says Beverley. ‘Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease can often be linked to the experience of chronic stress, and can certainly be exacerbated by it.
‘Stress can also cause the digestive system to slow down, causing bloating and constipation, and even heartburn or reflux.’
Elsewhere in the body, it is not uncommon to suffer from aches and pains.
‘Pain across the top of the shoulders and neck can sometimes be caused by stress,’ Beverley explains. ‘When stressed, we tend to carry our shoulders too high, often for a prolonged period of time, which can cause the muscles to become strained. This can often result in aches, pains and tension headaches.’
Why does stress cause physical symptoms?
It makes sense that we feel worried in stressful circumstances, but why does stress cause all these strange reactions in our bodies?
‘Being stressed is exhausting,’ says Beverley.
‘The release of cortisol and adrenaline is designed to get us ready to respond to feeling threatened – the fight or flight response. The stress we tend to experience cannot usually be solved by punching someone or running about from them (these responses are likely to maintain or worsen the stress experience.
‘Once the immediate threat has gone, or been faced and the adrenaline has worn off, we are then often left feeling extremely tired.’
She adds that this can manifest in how much sleep we are able to get.
‘If someone is experiencing chronic stress, they may then have difficulty sleeping, or have interrupted sleep, that can then further impact on our physical health,’ Beverley says.
‘Experiencing chronic stress and relying on adrenaline for a prolonged period of time can have a detrimental effect on our immune system. We are then much more likely to pick up bugs and colds, particularly when we stop and have a break, as the adrenaline is no longer needed.’
How to cope with the physical symptoms of stress
If we are so stressed that it is impacted our physical health, that’s not a good sign.
In the long-term, high levels of stress will only make us feel increasingly worse, and could have more serious implications for our health. So, it’s important to be proactive about tackling our stress levels.
Life coach Carol Anne Rice has shared some simple tips for overcoming symptoms of stress:
- Taking deep breaths helps.
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Don’t eat at your desk – enjoy your food and eat slowly,
- Write down what you are feeling this way: ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of XYZ…’ – which allows you to realise that these thoughts are passing and not a permanent state.
- Drink more water.
- Afternoon naps.
- Stop doom scrolling on phone or doing a compare and despair on social media.
- Step away from a situation.
- Long baths.
- Sniff lavender oil.
- Talk it over with a good friend.
If stress and the physical symptoms that come with it are becoming a regular feature of your life, or impeding your ability to work or feel happy, then you should consider talking to a professional.
Your GP is a good place to start, but also consider seeking at a mental health specialist who can help you build up techniques to cope with daily stress.
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