8 Signs stress is making you sick

Stress is much more than just a feeling and can actually harm your health in a number of ways. Here are some signs that your body is telling you to slow down

By Alyssa Jung

1. Unusual Weight Changes

“Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which changes the way you metabolize fat, protein, and carbs,” says Dr. Shanna Levine, a primary care physician and clinical instructor of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Stress can also cause you to overeat or undereat.

What to do

Snack on nuts. The protein will help if you’re under­eating, and the fiber will fill you up if you’ve been bingeing.

 

2. Breaking Out in Hives

When your body experiences stress, it releases a chemical called histamine and—boom—hives galore. When your immune system is weakened by stress, your skin can also become irritated by things it never used to be sensitive to, such as heat, lotions, or detergent.

What to do

Put a cool, damp towel on the affected area. If that doesn’t work, take an antihistamine.

 

3. A Fuzzy Brain

Too much cortisol can also make it harder to concentrate, causing memory problems as well as anxiety and depression, says Dr. Levine.

What to do

Relax until you regain your focus. Practice closing your eyes and breathing in and out slowly, concen­trating only on your breath.

 

4. Headaches

It’s common for your muscles to tense up when you’re stressed, which can cause a headache. Prone to migraines? Stress can trigger them or make them worse.

What to do

If you don’t want to take ibuprofen, try dabbing lavender oil or peppermint oil on your temples when a headache starts.

 

5. A Sour Tummy

Stress can cause the body to produce more digestive acid, which can lead to heartburn. “It can also slow the emptying of food from the stomach, which causes gas and bloating and may even increase the number of times your colon contracts, leading to cramping and diarrhea,” says Deborah Rhodes, MD, a Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) internal medicine physician.

What to do

Take an over-the- counter antacid or drink ginger tea.

 

6. Hair Falling Out

Hair follicles might be pushed into a resting phase by stress. A few months later, those hairs fall out. Stress can also cause the body’s immune system to attack your hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

What to do

Be patient. Once your stress level returns to normal, your hair should start growing back.

 

7. A Cold That Just Won’t Quit

Stress suppresses the immune system, which makes it harder to fight off bugs. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, USA, infected volunteers with a cold virus; those who reported that they were dealing with many stresses were twice as likely to get sick as those with fewer problems.

What to do

One study found that zinc supplements or lozenges can shorten the length of a cold by about a day if taken within 24 hours of feeling sick. Meditation, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep can also help you de-stress and boost your immune system.

 

8. Acne … Again!

Cortisol is the culprit here, too—it causes skin glands to make more oil. Along with dirt and dead skin cells, the oil can get trapped inside hair follicles, producing pimples.

What to do

Topical creams containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can clear up acne if applied regularly. For a more natural approach, wash your face with green tea or dab on some pure aloe. Their antibacterial properties can promote healing.