Hidden symptoms your body is stressed and how to tackle them. By Miss Velile Ndebele
It doesn’t matter who you are, stress inevitably affects most people. Figures suggest that in 2018, 74% of UK adults experienced stress and as a result of it, felt overwhelmed or unable to cope with situations. In addition, 28% were reported as saying they experienced long-term stress. Although it is a completely natural bodily response and actually helpful in our day-to-day lives, prolonged periods of stress can adversely affect your mental and physical wellbeing. In addition to the most common symptoms of stress – headaches, bodily aches and pains, fatigue and poor quality of sleep – there are a number of other lesser known symptoms which may indicate that your body is over-stressed.
Suppressed immune system
Due to our natural fight or flight responses, being stressed for long periods of time can directly affect your immune system, as it is one of the areas the body shuts down in order to put more energy into your muscles and other survival processes. This hormone-suppressing process results in a drop in white blood cell production, meaning you are more likely to pick up all sorts of bugs and illnesses. It is normal to pick up the occasional bug here and there, but if you find you are unwell more frequently than you were before, it could be a sign that stress is affecting your body’s ability to fight off illnesses. It has even been found that prolonged stress can increase your risk of developing serious health complications such as heart disease.
Gut health decline
Have you ever been in a stressful situation and suddenly needed the bathroom? Or the anticipation of an event that results in days of stomach churning, nausea and excessive gas? Another sign of stress that’s often overlooked is gut-related problems. Where there is no specific cause, such as intolerances, affected people might experience constipation, IBS, bloating, cramps and flatulence, all of which can be caused by poor gut health. Stress-related gut issues are the result of how stress affects the healthy bacteria in the gut and the blood flow to it. Due to the links between a person’s brain, stomach and intestine, when anxiety is experienced people often find themselves experiencing a gut wrenching feeling, coupled with nausea or diarrhoea. This can work both ways as similarly these symptoms can be the cause of stress and anxiety, making it a vicious cycle to escape.
One way to help prevent declining gut health is to deal with the stressors head on. Other ways include staying hydrated, watching your diet (try to ensure it is balanced and there is enough fibre included), get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night and finally, exercising as much as possible weekly. If problems continue to persist, there may be other issues at hand, therefore, procedures such as colon hydrotherapy or specialist massages may help to reset your body and provide relief from persistent symptoms.
One of the more unusual issues that can come with stress is eczema or inflamed skin, even though this applies mostly to people that already suffer with skin problems. This can also result in a vicious cycle because stress and anxiety can cause the flare-ups, which can then cause more stress due to worries about appearance and body confidence.
Depending on the intensity of the eczema or skin inflammation, the most effective way to combat this is to seek medical advice. For milder cases often just keeping the skin hydrated via moisturising (not perfumed) will reduce the chances of it becoming inflamed. Skin inflammation can also come as a result of allergic reactions to different foods, fragrances, washing powders and so forth, therefore it is a good idea to keep a record of flare ups in order to help identify possible triggers.
Human beings are incredibly resilient and as a result, you may not always be aware of how stressed you truly are, or how it is impacting your daily life. By becoming more aware of the symptoms associated with stress, you can take action to firstly try and reduce the levels of stress you are experiencing, but also effectively manage any symptoms during periods where stress is inevitable, such as preparing for a presentation at work, taking exams or planning your dream wedding. It is also important to seek help or advice if you feel that your stress levels are adversely affecting your mental health.
Each individual will react differently to stress and you know yourself best: so be vigilant to changes that might signal the need for some TLC. After all, less stress is the first step to a happier, healthier you!
Miss Velile Ndebele is founder and clinical director of Aqualibria Hydrotherapy MediSpa (aqualibria.com)