EVERYONE experiences stress – with research showing that four in five of us feel anxious every week.
While a little stress is good, too much can be bad for our well-being and cause skin breakouts, neck pain and bloating. Here, The Sun’s Dr Carol Cooper looks at the physical effects of stress you shouldn't ignore – and gives tips on how to get the balance back.
Stress can increase the amount of stomach acid, causing a burning feeling in your chest from it rising up the oesophagus.
Try eating little and often and don’t eat late at night. Smoking, alcohol, spicy foods and drugs like aspirin can make it worse.
Antacids and over-the-counter remedies help. But try a glass of milk before resorting to drugs – it helps neutralise acidity.
The stress hormone cortisol interferes with the delicate balance of female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, which can in turn make periods erratic or even absent.
It’s best to have a well-balanced diet as weight changes can also affect hormones.
A missed period can also mean pregnancy, of course, so test for that.
Tension headaches, often linked to stress, tend to worsen as the day goes on and are caused by scalp muscle contractions.
Meditation or yoga can help, as can warm baths or a cool cloth across your forehead.
Painkillers may help at first, but the headache often recurs.
See a GP if headaches often occur in the morning or you vomit or have other unexpected symptoms.
The gut is controlled by the autonomic system – part of the nervous system that takes care of many bodily functions.
Stress hormones seem to reset this as part of the fight-or-flight response, and the bowels operate erratically as a result.
Avoid laxatives if constipated as they can cause dehydration, which adds to anxiety.
Losing more hair than usual can be due to stress.
The disorder telogen effluvium, or shedding hair, happens when hair follicles stop growing due to stress hormones.
Trichotillomania, the habit of pulling out hair, is also a sign of stress.
Add iron-based foods such as broccoli and red meat and try hair-loss products.
SLEEP is often the hardest thing to do when stressed.
You may have trouble falling asleep, wake repeatedly in the night or too early in the morning.
Try a relaxing evening routine without caffeine or excess alcohol. List your worries before bed, then tell yourself it’s tomorrow’s agenda, not today’s. A little exercise during the day reduces stress hormones and aids sleep.
THE nervous system is often affected by stress hormones.
Numbness or tingling in the fingertips can also be caused when you hyperventilate – ie, breathe too quickly.
It happens due to failing mineral levels, especially calcium, but this is normally temporary and will go away when stress levels reduce.
STRESS often causes skin breakouts, especially around the chin and mouth as the stress hormone cortisol tells glands in the skin to make more oil.
Keep your skin clean using a good face wash and exfoliate to clear dead skin and unclog pores.
Drink plenty of water to hydrate the skin, too, and avoid touching your face, which can spread spot-causing bacteria.
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