Signs That Show You’re Under Stress

Our bodies are complex and amazing entities, with every system designed to work together in alignment and harmony to ensure optimum health. Although some stress is a normal and indeed, important part of our lives, recurring or constant stress can become a problem for these systems in our bodies. If you’ve become acclimatised to a high state of stress, it may even be that things have been going awry for a while and you’ve just not noticed them. Left unchecked, smaller, infrequent symptoms of stress can lead to much more serious health issues and complications, so it’s important to try and assess what your body is telling you as often as you can. This ability to tune into our bodies, while life continues at its usually fast pace, is one of the most important ways we can look after ourselves and safeguard both our physical and our mental health. Here are some signs to look out for.

You’re sweating more than usual

If you find you’re perspiring more, it could be down to elevated stress levels. When our bodies go into flight or fight mode, we release hormones such as adrenaline, that are also responsible for producing stress-induced sweat. It means that when you experience spikes in these hormones, your body will often respond by causing your sweat glands to become overactive. Whether it’s localised, such as the armpits or hairline, or experienced all-over is an individual response. Obviously addressing the cause of the stress itself is important but other solutions such as localised Botox or prescription anti-perspirants can help.

Your periods have stopped or are irregular

The pervasive nature of stress means that it can cause havoc on our hormones as well as everything else. When we experience chronic stress, the body goes into fight or flight mode to try and adapt and deal with the threat. That means that any system in the body that’s considered non-essential in the face of the immediate threat is put on hold ­– ovulation included. If you do notice your cycle is irregular, then it’s always best to speak to your GP or healthcare professional.

You're thirstier than ever

When we’re stressed our adrenal glands, which are responsible for releasing our stress hormones, quickly become overworked. When that happens, they have trouble regulating other hormone levels, one of which is aldosterone, the hormone responsible for our levels of fluids and electrolytes. When aldosterone drops it causes dehydration, causing us to try and compensate by reaching for whatever we can get our hands on. Ensuring you stay on top of hydration is a must, as is speaking to a professional who can help tackle the stress at the root of the problem.

Your teeth or jaw hurt

Sometimes signs of stress manifest themselves when we aren’t even aware of it. If you suffer regularly from pain in your teeth or jaw, or have noticed ridges that run along the insides of your cheeks (usually both sides), it could be a sign of night-time tooth grinding, which in itself is a sign of stress. If you think it's affecting you, book an appointment with your dentist right away – often a simple mouthguard worn at night have help prevent further damage.

Your healthy eating habits have disappeared

Sleep deprivation and stress go hand in hand, but one consequence of sleep deprivation is a change in dietary habits. When you don’t sleep well, the chemicals that signal to your body that you’re full are thrown off balance, which means you’re likely to overindulge, even when you’ve had enough food to satisfy you. Raised cortisol levels due also directly impact your ability to make sensible rational decisions, including those around what to eat. According to a study published in Nature Communications, just one night of impaired sleep is enough to affect your frontal lobe, the area in your brain which controls complex decision making, which means it’s easy to convince yourself to veer off course from your otherwise healthy eating habits.

You’re shedding more hair than usual

While losing anywhere between 80 -100 hairs a day is totally normal, when you’re under stress, you might find you’re losing a lot more because hair’s the growth cycle has been impacted or sent into shock, causing the shedding phase to be triggered prematurely. Although stress is often at the root of the problem, because of the length of time it can take for hair to react (anywhere between three and six months) we often don’t make a link between the two. And because our hair is such an intensely personal thing, directly linked to our feelings of self-esteem, when we do notice excess shedding or changes in its density, it can exacerbate the problem, causing more stress than ever and perpetuate the cycle. To try and restore normal hair loss patterns, speak to your GP or a specialist trichologist.