We all know that stress is bad for us, but we don’t always recognize when we’re feeling stressed. Our bodies are like relay towers. They’re constantly taking in information through the environment, the food we eat, and the chemicals and toxins we’re exposed to. Then our bodies translate that raw data and let us know what’s working, and what’s not working, by how we look and feel.
Stress comes in many forms though, which adds to the difficulty in identifying when we’re experiencing it. Someone who is under a chronic amount of stress will exhibit more noticeable, outward signs of stress in their bodies, then someone who is experiencing stress as a result of a passing situation. The distinction being chronic versus acute stress is the latter is temporary but quite intense.
Often stress is an underlying chronic condition, contributing to a multitude of symptoms, which also has an acute element to it. For example, you may experience an underlying low level of stress in your life as a result of social anxiety. That low level stress can then be triggered by a social situation that happens each year at the same time. Every year you may find yourself preparing for the acute flare up in your anxiety that increases your stress, and takes a greater toll on you than the rest of the year.
So how do you know that you’re under stress? What can you look for to start preparing yourself before your stress becomes a chronic condition?
Here are 5 ways that your body is telling you it’s stressed.
1. Most people when they are stressed experience sleep disturbances. That doesn’t mean that it you have no trouble sleeping that you’re not also under stress, it just means that’s a good place to start looking for signs that you are. Every body responds to stress differently, some require more sleep and some less. When you’re restless and anxious you tend to have more trouble sleeping. Start to notice if there has been any change in your sleep patterns, either sleeping more or less, having trouble falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep.
2. Notice what your eating habits are. Many people overeat when stressed as a way to disconnect and shut off the stress, or numb out. Others will stop eating as away to gain some sense of control over feeling not in control of the situation causing the stress, and the impact it’s having on them. Either one is possible; the key is to notice what is different than usual for you. Much like changes in your sleep patterns, you’re looking for what’s new or out of the ordinary for you. Your body may also crave different foods as a result of stress.
3. Regardless if you’re eating more or not, stress produces cortisol in the body which tends to make you put on weight around the belly. So even though you might have a loss of appetite as result of stress, you may also be carrying extra weight around the middle.
4. Cortisol also affects your immune system, big time! So when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to get sick. You’re body will have less resistance to fight off infections and will take longer to get over a cold when you are sick. Cuts and bruises will heal more slowly and will also be more susceptible to infections.
5. Stress can also present itself in the body as dull and lifeless skin, hair and eyes. Your usual shine or brightness can be become faded, much like your spirit feels. The body is expressing outwardly what is going on inside.
Commit to paying attention to the language of your body. It’s always speaking to you.
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To your authenticity,