5 Ways Your Body is Telling You You're Stressed
Studies have shown that stress can negatively impact our long-term health in a myriad of ways. At the same time, stress can also bring on several short-term symptoms that can serve as important warnings that we should slow down. If you experience any of the following, consider altering your schedule and lifestyle to improve your well-being.
1. Anxiety attacks: While not life-threatening, anxiety attacks can be extremely traumatic. Symptoms include racing heartbeat, faintness, weakness, dizziness, tingling, a sense of terror, chest pains, breathing difficulties and a feeling of loss of control. If you are having regular anxiety attacks, talk to your doctor about prescription medications that can reduce symptoms. You should also consider seeing a mental health professional, who can teach you effective ways to cope with anxiety.
2. Racing thoughts: Excessive stress can lead us to obsess about our to-do lists. It can also cause us to ruminate about a wide array of topics, especially when we are trying to sleep. Meditation can be a big help with this, especially when performed immediately before bedtime.
3. Insomnia: Poor sleep is a common symptom of stress. Unfortunately, insufficient sleep can fuel stress, causing a destructive cycle that's difficult to break. Since poor sleep is linked to depression and long-term health problems, it's important to improve your sleep hygiene. You can do this by avoiding caffeine, alcohol and electronic devices before bedtime. You should also try to get to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
4. Heartburn: Contrary to popular belief, ulcers are actually caused by bacteria and not stress. That said, stress can increase the production of stomach acid, which can irritate ulcers, while causing heartburn, insomnia and stomach pain. If you are struggling with heartburn, try an over-the-counter acid reducing medication and alter your diet to remove potential irritants. If the problem continues, visit your doctor for more aggressive treatment options.
5. Weight Gain: While stress can cause some people to lose their appetites, it can cause others to experience weight gain. Research suggests this could have something to do with the way stress alters our hormones. Stress can also cause people to consume sugary foods in search of relief. It's important to focus on eating the right kinds of foods, when we are feeling stressed. Try stocking your pantry and refrigerator with plenty of fruits and vegetables and leave unhealthy foods at the grocery store.
While stress is an inevitable part of modern life, studies suggest you can reduce its destructive toll by exercising, getting plenty of sleep and engaging in mindful meditation. If stress is making your life miserable, take proactive steps now before it affects your long-term health.