As well as obvious mental signs, such as anxiety or insomnia, tension can bring on surprising physical symptoms
The stress hormone cortisol can increase oil production in your skin glands, leading to more spots
When you’re stressed your brain releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, sending blood rushing to your heart, other vital organs and muscles to help you deal with the situation.
"When you’re stressed your brain releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol"
But long-term stress can trigger other issues – such as acne. Stress doesn’t cause acne so much as aggravate it if you suffer already. Touching your face when you’re worried might be one reason you get a breakout.
Cold sores are more likely to appear when you're stressed
Again, cold sores aren’t caused by stress but by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). But when you’re under pressure, they’re more likely to pop up – and make you feel even worse about yourself. Dab on acyclovir, an antiviral cold-sore cream which can be bought at a pharmacy, as soon as you feel that tell-tale tingling or itching.
Sores in your mouth and swollen gums are other unpleasant side effects of stress and anxiety but if they persist more than a couple of weeks see a dentist to rule out other issues.
CBT can be helpful for managing chronic pain and the stress that might be causing it
Chronic pain causes stress and depression but prolonged stress can also provoke or worsen chronic pain. It’s a vicious circle – the more pain you’re in, the more stressed you become and the worse the pain gets. Tackling the stress can help ease the pain.
"It’s a vicious circle – the more pain you’re in, the more stressed you become and the worse the pain gets"
Some recommended strategies are finding distractions, including seeing friends, and going to bed and getting up at the same time every night. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be effective for both stress and chronic pain.
High levels of cortisol can deplete collagen in your skin, causing wrinkles
When you’re under mental strain you’re more likely to grind your teeth. Long-term teeth grinding (bruxism) wears them down. None of us wants to look older, but unfortunately shorter teeth can shorten your face and cause stress lines around the mouth. Another factor in wrinkle formation might be frowning. Meanwhile, high levels of cortisol can deplete the collagen and elastin which help give your skin its elasticity.
Studies have shown psychological stress can weaken the immune system over time. You become more prone to coughs, colds and other bugs.
"One study of 116 elderly Hong Kong Chinese people found those in psychological distress had a weakened immune response to the flu vaccine"
One study of 116 elderly Hong Kong Chinese people found those in psychological distress had a weakened immune response to the flu vaccine. Bolster your immunity by eating a healthy diet and exercising. Physical activity is also a great way of relieving stress.
While stress can cause premature greying, lowering your stress levels may reverse it
We’re not just talking about the overall condition of your barnet here; extreme stress can actually cause some hair loss and turn your hair grey. Hair colour comes from melanin, a pigment produced by cells called melanocytes. Stress can cause the stem cells that create melanocytes to disappear, making you go grey more quickly. But the news isn’t all bad - a small study from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York found that in some cases, once stress was lifted, normal hair colour returned.
Read more: What is Anhedonia and how can you fix it?
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