Back in caveman times, we developed a natural response to stress that came in pretty handy. Since dealing with wild animals was a thing, we had to be quick on our feet and ready to fight or flee at a moment's notice. But even though that's no longer the case, we still feel the effects of stress, and it can be pretty devastating.
In fact, our bodies have become so hard-wired with a fight-or-flight response, that we react to normal life stressors as if they were scary bears or saber-toothed tigers. According to an article on MayoClinic.org, even minor life hassles, like going to work, can be perceived as threats. No wonder we are all so constantly stressed out.
And who can we thank for this dramatic overreaction? Well, our hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. When these chemicals kick in, there's a natural burst of energy that's necessary when danger is present. But if that misfires all day long, it can really wear the body down. According to the Mayo Clinic, "The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes."
It's important to recognize when things are getting out of control, lest you turn into a quivering puddle of cortisol. Since we all know the obvious effects of stress, here are some of the other signs that you're way too stressed out.
1. You Always Catch Whatever Flu Is Going Around, And Then Never Get Better
It always seems to work this way— go through a stressful event, and then a week later you wind up sick. That's because the body doesn't deal well with stress, and it responds by getting all run down and riddled with germs. So it makes perfect sense that someone under constant stress would be constantly sick.
Of course we can blame cortisol for this lovely cause and effect reaction, according to an article by Diana Kelly on DailyBurn.com. Cortisol and other hormones are components of the immune system, and when they are withdrawn, the body becomes susceptible to sickness.
2. You Get Nosebleeds All The Time
As if stress isn't bad enough, imagine the horror of freaking out and then having to deal with an onslaught of blood from a nosebleed. Seems like something straight out of an old scary movie, but apparently it happens, and it's considered a sign of too much stress. As Emily Main noted on Prevention, "... studies have shown that, in some cases, patients who experience nosebleeds get them after finding themselves in stressful situations ... this could have something to do with the spikes in blood pressure that are very common when you're stressed out." Makes sense to me.
3. Your Memory Is Totally Shot
We've all forgotten our keys in a moment of stress, or totally blanked on an appointment when the day is just too busy. That's normal. Constant stress, however, can turn life into one big hazy memory game where you feel forgetful and clueless most of the time. And again (surprise!) cortisol is to blame.
According to an article on CalmClinic.com, "Cortisol is known specifically to prevent the formation of memories and cause memory loss. When you have anxiety, you're essentially putting your body under long term stress and increasing the amount of cortisol in your system all throughout the day. That can have many potential repercussions, one of which is forgetfulness."
4. Your Hair Is Falling Out
It's completely normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day. It's not so normal to constantly clog your shower drain and fill up your brush with loose strands. When that's the case, you may convince yourself you're going bald.
Don't panic and make your stress worse, but there are a few stress-induced hair loss conditions. According to Main, "Among the conditions associated with stress-induced hair loss is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which white blood cells attack hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. Another condition triggered by stress that has even more extreme results is called telogen effluvium, which is basically characterized by a sudden loss (up to 70 percent) of hair." The thing with telogen effluvium is it can happen months after a particularly stressful event, noted Main, so it can be hard to pinpoint stress as the exact cause. Either way, your hair will grow back.
5. You Feel Super Emotional
Stress has to go somewhere, and usually it flows forth in the form of emotions. You may find yourself crying over a Hallmark commercial, or getting way too into kickboxing at the gym. Good for you for handling it in a constructive way, but one can hope it never gets to that point in the first place.
If it feels like it's getting out of hand, keep an eye on yourself. As Kara Heissman noted on Lifehack.org, "Emotional changes can be normal, temporary responses to events; however, disproportionate, extreme, persistent, or unstable emotional reactions may indicate a serious issue.In stress, the following emotional reactions may indicate a serious issue." These include extreme mood swings, irritability, constant state of agitation, and depression. If that's the case, seek out some help so you can learn coping mechanisms. Because nobody likes feeling depressed.
5. You're A Sweaty Mess
Everyone gets a glisten on their forehead when running late to work, or a slight case of the sweaty armpits after a work presentation. But stress sweating can go a bit further than that. As Main noted, "... some people suffer from hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating, particularly of the palms and feet... " This can be all sorts of fun when shaking hands with your boss, or holding hands on a first date.
6. You Always Have A UTI
Constant urinary tract infections aren't caused by stress itself, but rather lifestyle choices a stressful life demands. As Kelly noted, they can crop up when you put off going to the bathroom, which is one of the biggest risk factors for a UTI. No matter how busy you are, always remember to take time to pee, or risk an excruciating couple of days.
7. Your Period Is Killing You
Cramps always suck, but they may start to suck a bit more when you're under a lot of stress. According to an article on Prevention, "The most stressed-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful menstrual cramps as those who are less tense ... Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones."
Stress wreaks havoc on the body, so do your best to find ways to relax before it gets out of hand.
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