You already know that stress, well, stresses you out. You can feel it as your fight-or-flight levels rise, bringing with it a shift in your mood and outlook. Well did you know that stress can also have physical effects on your appearance? It’s more than the feeling described above. The physical manifestations of stress can cause palpable reactions in other parts of your body that can leave us feeling even more stressed out.
Once you’re aware that the symptoms you’re facing are a result of stress, it’s a bit easier to pare them down with appropriate stress-management techniques.
Physical Manifestations of Stress
Before I offer you some helpful stress management techniques, it’s worth taking a look at the physical manifestations of stress when it’s un-managed. Here are the top five:
- Hair Loss: As you go through one of life’s more stressful events — loss of a job, divorce, taking out a mortgage — you’re sure to feel a whole lot of stress. It will take three to six months for it to manifest itself as hair loss, which you’ll likely notice when more hair falls in the shower or while you’re brushing it. Hair falls out because stress causes a surge in sex hormones called androgens, which cause follicles to fall out temporarily.
- Lowered Sex Drive: Stress can lower both men’s and women’s sex drives, and there are several causes. Regular, everyday stress causes your body to release cortisol or epinephrine, hormones that improve your fight-or-flight response. The regular release of cortisol can lower your libido, as can a busy, stressful schedule that leaves you without energy at the end of the day. Obviously, relationship stress can also put a damper on your sex life, too.
- Acne: Remember the androgens, the sex hormones that cause your hair to fall out temporarily? These same hormones can also contribute to acne, and, of course, they’re released when you’re stressed. If you’re chronically stressed, it can lead to chronic acne and inflammation. This is one of the physical manifestations of stress that many of us (especially women) hate the most.
- Colds: Oh, joy: you’re already feeling stressed and then you get a cold. As unfair as it is, your stress can be the cause of the cold, and cortisol could be to blame. Cortisol is released when you feel threatened or anxious. It also temporarily slows down your body’s immune system and inflammatory response, so you can dedicate more energy to whatever threat is causing you stress.
- Back Pain: When you’re really stressed, your heart starts racing, your blood pressure skyrockets, and your muscles tense up. This works out well if your stress was triggered by something that requires a fight-or-flight response — you’re ready to run or defend yourself when your body is in overdrive. Unfortunately, if the stress is internal, its side effects can cause bodily aches instead.
Related: How To Ease Back Pain Naturally
Now that you know the physical manifestations of stress is causing your hair loss, acne, lowered sex drive, cold or back pain, it’s time to figure out ways to zen out. There are countless ways to do it, and here are five easy strategies you can work into your daily routine:
- Manage Your Time Better: Time management is key in fighting stress, especially at school or in the workplace. With a good planning tool — like a day planner or an app — you can look ahead and avoid a deadline cropping up unexpectedly. Time management also keeps you from procrastinating, which allows you to break down big projects into pieces that are easier and less daunting. No matter what big event is on the horizon, time management is key in side-stepping the stress that would typically come with it.
- Spend Time With Someone You Love: Stress makes you want to curl up on the couch with your favorite Netflix show, but don’t let it. Instead, find time to spend with the ones you love. It’s a known stress reliever on its own, but some of the interactions you’ll share will further fizzle stress. For example, hugs have been shown to relieve high blood pressure and stress. If you can’t find a human companion, pets can have a similar effect on your psyche.
- Keep a Journal: A simple notebook and pen can do wonders to fight the stress you feel on a regular basis. The reflective nature of journaling allows you to sit back, look at your problems again and see a clearer way to fix them. You can use your journal as a place to write down everything that’s good and for which you have gratitude, which has been shown to improve the writer’s mood.
- Take a Hot Bath: You don’t remember, but life in your mother’s womb was calm and serene. A hot bath connects you with those memories, which is why we find hot baths so soothing. You can up the ante, too, by adding a scent like lavender to the water. Lavender’s aroma slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure. Not only will a hot bath calm you down, the steam will open up your pores so that you can give yourself a deep cleanse. This way the physical manifestations of stress can be gently washed away.
- Meditate: Like a journal, you can carry your meditation practice with you wherever you go. It doesn’t require much of a time commitment. A few minutes of self-reflection each day can usher you into a state of reflection, relaxation and general well-being. Meditative methods range from yoga to mantra meditation, wherein practitioners repeat a calming phrase until they feel its effects.
Now you know the various physical manifestations of stress on your body. And now you know five ways to pipe down your anxiety, so you can get back to living a calmer, happier and more serene life.
About The Author: Sarah Landrum
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger, sharing advice on finding happiness and success in your career and in life. Passionate about both food and living a balanced life, Sarah is always on the lookout for healthy new recipes and ways to get fit. Share your favorites and check out more from Sarah by following her on Twitter @SarahLandrum