It gives you a headache
If you have any vulnerabilities like being prone to getting headaches or migraines, that will flare up.
Additionally, inflammation is a key component of migraines, Donnai adds: Any inflammatory reaction in our system is normally well controlled, as long as we’re not stressed.
Also, headaches can be caused by stress-induced muscle tension in our neck.
Try relaxation exercises or unwind with yoga or pilates. Overall, simple pain relievers you can buy over the counter, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin, usually work to resolve a tension headache within 20 minutes.
For a stronger treatment, consult your GP.
Cardiovascular risk and increased blood pressure
When we experience acute stress, whether it’s during exercise, such as having been scared, or if we’ve experienced significant acute mental stress, such as being the victim of a crime, our body reacts by releasing adrenaline, says Dr. Rahul Potluri, consultant cardiologist. at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
It increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and keeps other aspects of your body alert, such as your muscles, eyes, and other sensory organs.
But chronic stress, especially chronic psychological stress, can take a serious toll on our heart and blood pressure. If you’re the personality type who’s constantly stressed out about the little things, she says, Over time, that leads to cardiovascular risk factors, like increased blood pressure, because your arteries get so used to the fluctuations that they start to stiffen or they cannot relax as much as they normally would.
This makes you more susceptible to high blood pressure, which, Potluri says, is a risk factor for strokes and heart attacks.
Relaxation techniques and exercise can make all the difference, advises Potluri. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Start small and build. Maintain a healthy weight and reduce your salt intake, as it makes your body retain water, further raising your blood pressure.
Stops digestion triggers IBS
Stomach pain, reflux, indigestion, gas, and a change in bowel habits can all take a toll on our guts when we’re stressed. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common among those who are chronically stressed.
Stress changes the bacterial profile of the gut and gut bacteria play a vital role in digestion and motility [ability to move independently] and other key functions, says Storoni. The autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls unconscious processes such as breathing and heart rate, also modulates normal gut physiology.
And when we’re chronically stressed, our ANS doesn’t regulate some of these things like it does in a healthy person. Inflammatory conditions affecting the gut, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can also be exacerbated by chronic stress.
Eat slowly, sitting down, trying to devote at least 20 minutes to a meal. Hypnotherapy, meditation and counseling can help relieve IBS. Even gentle exercise can work wonders. Consult your doctor to rule out inflammatory bowel problems and other more troubling problems.
It affects sleep patterns
Sleep is a major casualty of stress, says Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford and author of Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How It can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Health.
The natural pattern of human sleep is to wake up multiple times during the night. But the problem for stressed and anxious people is that when they wake up, their mind is immediately flooded with all the reasons why they’re stressed and then they can’t get back to sleep, he says.
Sleep disruption then exacerbates the problem. If you get too little sleep, you’ll ramp up your stress response even more to cope with the fact that you haven’t gotten enough sleep, adds Foster. Thus overwriting the sleep drive.
Try cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a structured program that helps people identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep problems worse, then replace them with healthy alternatives.
Try the Sleepio app, which offers an online sleep improvement program that you can tailor to your needs. Consider sleep restriction Only go to bed when sleepy and get up as soon as you wake up. Follow the 15 minute rule if you can’t sleep after 15 minutes, get up rather than tossing and turning.
Linked to weight gain
Imagine, says Storoni, thousands of years ago, you were running away from a saber-toothed tiger. You’re getting tired while running, but you want to make sure there’s enough sugar for the brain to stay sharp and alive, she says.
A stress response helps keep the brain supplied with sugar by temporarily blocking insulin, releasing glucose from the liver and muscle cells into the bloodstream so it can replenish the brain. This temporary state of insulin resistance ends as soon as the stress response is over.
However, he adds, some studies have shown that people under chronic stress may be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome whose symptoms include weight gain and high blood pressure.
Try to lose excess weight through diet and exercise to improve insulin sensitivity. Reduce your sugar intake and find healthy recipe swaps to replace high-fat or sugary foods.
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