Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Learn to recognize the signs of stress so you can stop the cycle.

Like many things, when it comes to stress more is not better. A little bit of stress is good because it keeps us alert and engaged in life, but a lot of stress leads down a slippery slope of overwhelm, despair and potentially serious health problems.

If you’ve ever had a busy day of commitments scheduled back-to-back, you know what it’s like to feel stressed. Whether you’re racing across town to pick the kids up from school and get them to soccer practice on time, or you’re shuttling between meetings and tasks at the office, you might even say, “I’m so stressed.” That’s acute stress and it ebbs and flows with the rhythm of our lives.

Chronic stress is different. Chronic stress can be the result of an imbalanced, overcommitted lifestyle or major life changes such as divorce, death, bankruptcy, or moving. Chronic stress is pervasive. We may live in a state of chronic stress for a long time before we start to realize its effects, but eventually the effects can be serious and devastating.

Fortunately, our bodies do give us some warning signs when things get out of balance. Start paying attention to the daily nuances of your body to keep tabs on your stress levels and stop the cycle.

Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of stress:

Pimples: If you suddenly find yourself fighting a constant battle with whiteheads and blackheads, pay attention. Your body is talking to you. Stress causes your body to release a hormone called androgen into your bloodstream. The androgen increases the body’s level of sebum, which is the oily substance that clogs pores and results in pimples.

Of course you can treat pimples with a solid skin-care regimen, but the real challenge lies in getting to the root of the problem. Minimize stress to see the pimples disappear.

Itchy skin: It’s easy to write itchy skin off as a result of the climate, especially during the winter months. But, itchy skin can actually be a sign that something is off balance in your body. When you’re stressed, your body releases a stress compound called histamine, which is directly related to skin allergies.

Slathering on lotion will only treat the symptom. Reduce your stress load to eliminate the itch.

Pale skin: Our skin is sort of like a barometer for what is going on inside our bodies. When we’re under incredible stress, our body shifts into survival mode, redirecting blood flow to vital organs and leaving our skin looking pasty and unhealthy. If you’ve lost your healthy glow, it may be a sign that you’ve reached your upper limit for your stress load.

It’s imperative to counteract the negative effects of stress by getting plenty of rest, choosing nutritious foods, and reducing your stress load. If your cheeks don’t resume their rosy glow, consult with a physician to eliminate the possibility of a larger health problem.

Bleeding gums: If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, this could be a sign that stress has impacted your immune system, which can lead to the build-up of bacteria around the gum line, resulting in inflammation and bleeding.

If your gums are bleeding, take a hard look at the stress in your life—and consult your dentist.

Digestive issues: If you’re experiencing chronic constipation or diarrhea, your body may be reacting to the toxic overload of stress. During periods of stress, the body releases hormones into the intestinal lining that can result in cramping and discomfort.

Choose mild foods with plenty of fiber—and reduce your stress.

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