The human body is designed to react quickly and visibly in times of significant stress. Our heart rate rises, our body temperature increases, our blood pumps more quickly, and our brains work faster. But our bodies aren’t designed to sustain that “state of emergency” for long periods of time. In fact, the longer you’re in that stressed out state, the worse off you are. Eventually, chronic stress can lead to disease, disorders, and even death! Here are a few signs your stress is killing you:
You can’t focus
Did you know that concentration problems are a sign of excess stress? Cortisol (the stress hormone) shrinks the part of your brain that controls memories, making it hard to remember important things beyond “fight or flight”. Long-term stress can also cause your brain to produce the proteins that lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. If you’re having a hard time focusing at work or at home, it’s a sign you’re overstressed and need a break!
You’re sick a lot
Stress suppresses the immune system. Cortisol prevents your body from producing all the hormones it needs for balanced immunity, essentially leaving you wide open to disease and illness. If you’re sick a lot more often (with colds, coughs, sneezing, the flu, etc.), it may be one of the signs your stress is killing you. Stress can even stop your body from healing wounds properly, and can make you more vulnerable to viral infections.
A certain amount of achiness is to be expected after a long day of sitting at a desk or hitting it hard at the gym. But if your back and neck are constantly aching, even after spending a day resting, it may be a sign you’re too stressed. Stress affects your posture, causing you to sit in a cramped, uncomfortable position that can strain your back and neck. It can also tighten the muscles around your spine until they become knotted and painful. Make a conscious effort to correct your posture, and you can stop stress from causing pain.
You’ve got regular headaches
Headaches are a sign that something is going seriously wrong in your brain. Perhaps it’s an increase in pressure, the result of stress. Tension headaches are caused by prolonged periods of stress, and they can get worse the more you allow the stress to continue. You need to cut back on the stress in your life to make the headaches go away.
You don’t sleep well
Your body NEEDS sleep in order to function properly. Sleep helps to “reboot” your body, repairing muscles, restoring healthy organ function, resting your brain and eyes, and so on. But stress stops you from sleeping well at night. Not only does it make it harder to fall asleep (due to all your anxious, stressed thoughts), but it can make you more restless as you sleep. Stress can stop you from entering REM sleep, which will leave you tired and groggy the next morning.
Your sex life suffers
Yes, stress can kill your sex life! Stress can lead to erectile dysfunction, courtesy of the chronic high blood pressure and reduced circulation. Dealing with stress can help to restore a healthy balance to your body, and the results will be VERY visible in the bedroom.
Your hair is falling out
Hair loss isn’t just caused by too much androgen—cortisol can also be the cause! Too much stress can affect your hormone levels, decreasing testosterone while increasing DHT production. It can also lead to autoimmune conditions (like alopecia areata) that may lead to serious hair loss.