Six little known signs of stress

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Monday 29 August 2016 10:00
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Picture: mattjeacock/iStock

Stress is how you feel when you're failing to cope with pressure. Different people find different things stressful, there is no one trigger for all people, and no single set of symptoms. Here are some more subtle and less well known ones that can help you identify stress, and then consider what pressures are causing it.

1. Your cravings get stronger

While some people lose their appetite, for others cravings and stress eating become more prevalent. It's therefore fitting that 'stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards. Giving in to the craving won't relieve stress, and a poor diet will do further damage to your health.

A better way to suppress cravings, for food, drugs, and sex, can be exercise and even computer games. Two separate studies by the University of Plymouth found that interval training or regularly playing games such as Tetris interfere with the brain's craving centre. As well as suppressing the craving, exercise is good for stress relief.

2. Your skin develops acne

Psychosomatic health problems can be brought on by stress, and your skin is usually the best indicator of this. As the largest organ, if you have a problem, it's bound to show on the skin. This can take the form of inflaming preexisting conditions such as eczema.

Stress also indirectly stimulates the production of sebum which encourages the development of acne. This is because stress in the brain secrets adrenaline and cortisol, and a byproduct of this is androgen, a hormone that stimulates the production of sebum.

3. Your hair falls out

This sign of stress isn't because you are 'tearing your hair out' (known as trichotillomania). According to the Mayo clinic, stress can push your hair follicles into a resting phase, meaning that they fall out with very little pressure being exerted on them. This can be as little as running water in the shower or brushing it with a comb. It's not all bad news though, the hair can grow back if you get your stress in order.

4. Your ears ring more than usual

Studies by the Karolinska Institute, Sweden used functional MRI scan to look at the brains women experiencing ringing in their ears. The scans showed the limbic region of the brain which handles aspects of stress regulation went into overdrive when the participants experienced ringing in their ears.

5. Your mouth hurts

A sore mouth and jaw is a result of grinding your teeth in your sleep (known as bruxism), which is common among people suffering from stress. Ways to fix this, if you're unable to reduce stress are by sleeping with a mouth guard. This may sound like a regression to adolescence and the cruel reign of the retainer, a mouth guard or split will even out the pressure across your whole mouth, and work as a physical barrier between your teeth.

6. Your period becomes irregular

Stress can cause 'secondary amenorrhea' when the imbalance of hormones stops you menstruating altogether. As with other forms of stress, exercise can provide relief. This isn't just about releasing endorphins, a study by Harvard University found that yoga reduces the size of the brain's amygdalae, the region that processes fear and anxiety, physically reducing your capacity to feel stressed.

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