Are You Over Stressed? – How To Spot The Hidden Signs (And How To Fix It)
In a world where the word ‘busy’ is a badge of honour, we have become seemingly immune to the concept of stress while still suffering through it silently. Many knees are buckling under the weight of work schedules and deadlines, but it’s common to react with nervous laughter and excuses, rather than accepting that three hours of sleep a night is not a lifestyle; and just because you’re not zipped up in a straight-jacket, doesn't mean there isn't pent up tension just beneath the surface. And this as the tensions pulls, your physical and emotional wellbeing are compromised- sometimes without the you even realising that stress is the mitigating factor.
As an old Zen adage tells us, “you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day- unless you’re too busy; then you should sit an hour”. This message is equally applicable here. if you are feeling a little stressed right now but you’ve got something else to get on to right away, it’s probably a good idea that you put that on the backburner and have a read through the list- you might find that your lifestyle has been adversely affecting your health without you even realising it.
The brains nervous system is directly linked to the gut’s, so stress can cause some serious trouble for your gastrointestinal tract. This means that your body’s ability to transport and digest food, absorb nutrients, and expel waste, could all be compromised. This could result in constipation, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting, as well as other effects directly from stress.
When the cause of the stress eases and the body is able to relax slightly, the body will begin to access and release the tension it has been storing. This can result in painful headaches and migraines on the weekend, which are difficult to alleviate but can be helped by keeping to a regular schedule of meals and rest.
If you’re experiencing a sore or achy jaw, this can often be associated with stress. Some people unconsciously grit their teeth and clench their jaw when processing stress, and it is common for people to grind their teeth in their sleep. Both of these are small outlets for your body to release the tension, which can result in aches and pains.
Dreams are always weird, but when you’re stressed you’re more likely to find yourself disturbed throughout the night. This means you’re keeping the strange scenes at the surface of your conscious instead of lost to the world of 4am, and these dreams probably involve challenges or issues that imitate your day-to-day challenges, as your brain attempts to resolve itself with some of your real-world woes.
Back or Neck Aches:
While this is often attributed to poor posture or injuries, frequently muscle tightness and pain comes from a mental tension manifesting as the physical. For example, back pain can develop after a traumatic experience, as a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if there was no injury sustained, many people cannot heal their back pain until the emotional stress is resolved.
Stress and Sex:
Stress and tension are catalysts for erectile dysfunction, which can almost be read backwards as erectile dysfunction is a catalyst for stress and tension. While a lot of men won’t immediately identify the problem as being stress related, it is in fact the leading cause. This proves to be a self perpetuating problem out of the cruelty of nature, as sex is a great natural regulator to anxiety and stress.
“Don’t Quite Feel 100%”:
The ultimate excuse; this can be used to dismiss many symptoms of stress that could be doing your health some serious damage. If you can’t shake that cough, sore throat, headache, fever, or other mild discomfort, you can probably thank stress for that. Cortisol, a hormone linked to stress and the immune system, is secreted when we are under stress, and if this stress is constant then our cortisol supply becomes depleted. This can mean your wounds take longer to heal, you catch viruses off someone who knew someone who was sick, and you have that cold for three weeks longer than anyone else. Long term exposure to cortisol has also been linked to a shrinking hippocampus, which is the brains memory centre. So if your eyes glaze over trying to remember that co-workers name, or you lose focus at the staff meeting (more than the regular person), your concentration and memory could be getting depleted at the hands of your stress.
The Catch 22:
Many of these symptoms, as well as other physical manifestations from hair loss to acne, are distressing and painful for the sufferer, resulting in more stress. You can’t remember if you sent that email before you left work, your throat is killing you and you barely slept last night… these are all symptoms as well as causes. And while many of these symptoms can be alleviated with medications, painkillers, and a bucket of coffee, the best thing to do is nip it in the bud.
Three Ways To Alleviate Stress:
Yoga and Meditation
Everyone seems to be loving yoga and meditation, and once you give it a go you can see why. Yoga will help you to release any physical discomforts which may be ailing you, and the meditation will allow you to connect with your inner zen, to give you the mental armoury you need to get through the day. Next time you’re at work and a stressful situation arises, simple techniques such as becoming aware of and releasing any muscle tension, and long inhales and exhales, can help to soothe the soul and put things in perspective.
If you’re body is struggling to keep itself full of vitality, then help it. Drink plenty of water, and eat a variety of fresh produce and whole ingredients. Limit heavily processed meals, sugar-laden drinks, and toxins such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. While many of these serve as a crutch for someone suffering through stress, a far more effective way of long-term treatment is to fuel your body well.
Rest and Play
Ensure you are keeping to a regular, sufficient sleep cycle. 7-8 hours a night is the recommended amount, and it helps if you keep the waking and sleeping times to a solid routine. This will keep your brain fresh, and allows your body time to heal and develop. Equally important is the time you spend with positive stimulation, especially outdoors. Find a hobby which encourages you to get some fresh air, such as tennis two nights a week, or morning walks. As a sedentary lifestyle becomes more and more prevalent, we need to make active decisions to ensure our bodies and minds do not deteriorate.