Stress can come from many different sources and can even be a matter of how we perceive the events that shape our daily lives, but beyond that, stress is often a hidden health hazard that can literally make you sick. Our immune system kicks into high gear when it senses a ‘threat,’ and it knows there is a threat invading our body by our emotional response to what is happening. If we can control our response to stress events, we can help ourselves to be healthier.
Your body is sending up smoke signals and telling you to find healthy ways to manage the stress in your life, because failing to do so is slowly making you sick. In this article, we will look at the 8 often hidden signs of stress and how it can make you sick.
8 Hidden Signs Stress Is Making You Sick
To prevent yourself from having these stress-related health problems and a lower immune system response when you have to deal with stress, look for ways to calm down. What works is different for everyone, so meditation may be your go-to solution, but a vigorous workout with energetic music may work for someone else. Play around with various activities until you feel that ‘ah!’ release that you need to rid yourself of the poison of stress.
1. Your memory is failing you
Stanford researcher and neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky has studied primate brains and the biological responses to stress. He says that stress leads to deterioration of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is crucial to memory. In an article published in the journal Science, Sapolsky argues that ‘the underlying causal agent may be glucocorticoids secreted in abnormally high amounts under stressful conditions.’
As a result, your brain is slower than usual when it comes to processing information when you are under stress. It’s as though stress gives you early signs of dementia, and although these are not permanent, they are certainly concerning hidden signs of stress.
2. Head pain
Headaches are a fairly common sign of stress, but the frequency and severity of your headache pain can be a hidden sign that stress is making you sicker than you know. If you have a headache more often than once every few months and it is not related to drinking too much alcohol, it may be a symptom that you are handling stress poorly.
3. You have digestive problems
Acid reflux, upset stomach, gas, and bowel disorders are just some of the signs that stress is making your body sick. The cortisol that surges in your body in response to a stressful event is helpful to us if we have to flee from a tiger, but it shuts down the digestion of our food, so that our body has energy that it might need to fight or run from the imaginary tiger.
When we respond with frustration to a traffic jam, for example, our bodies perceive that we are in a state of heightened emotions and it diverts energy away from our digestive system as a result.
4. Weight changes
You are happy to be losing weight, but the weird thing is that you haven’t changed your diet or added any cardio exercise, so what’s going on? Your body is responding to stress by revving up your metabolism due to the fight or flight surges of cortisol in your body. If you tend to overeat when stressed, you will see the opposite effect on your weight.
5. Your relationships are suffering
Stress from negative and unhealthy relationships can lead to health problems, which can in turn make you tend to avoid spending time with the people who create negativity. Researchers who studied stress and health symptoms in college students found that ‘Negative social exchange accounted for more variance in physical health symptoms than did life-event stress, daily hassles, or social support.’ In other words, even having good, healthy relationships can’t outweigh the effects that a bad relationship can have on your level of stress and your health.
6. Itchy or red skin
Your skin can sense certain environmental stressors like toxins, but it also is also one of the first organs in your body to show you that you are experiencing hidden stress in your body. Redness, itchiness, bumps, and hives are all signs that you literally feel like jumping out of your skin. Managing the stress will help the symptoms to clear up.
7. You feel like pulling your hair out, but it’s falling out without you doing anything
Hair loss is another hidden sign that stress is making you sick. We normally lose a small percentage of our hair each time we brush or comb it, but if you are noticing a larger amount than usual is coming out, it is likely due to stress. Again, your body is shutting down the healthy systems that build new cells, including your hair, in order to divert energy to battle the stress or threat that you are dealing with in your life.
8. You easily get sick
Reduced immunity is a surprising hidden effect of chronic stress. Your body is less effective at fighting off bacteria and viruses because it’s already fighting an internal battle and readying itself for the fight that it thinks is coming, because you’ve tricked it into thinking there’s something to be worried about.