You can always tell when you’re stressed, right? Not necessarily! Chronic stress can bring about a wide range of symptoms and you won’t always link them to stress. This can mean that you ignore some key signs that stress is building up and carry on your day-to-day life without taking any steps to address the situation.
How can you tell if you’re too stressed? Here are some signs that stress may be getting the better of you and what you can do to change things up.
#1 – Bleeding gums
Keep finding that your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? It’s not always a sign that you need to up your oral hygiene game. Sometimes, stress can be a factor. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can have a negative effect on your immunity and make it easier for bacteria to get into your gums. The end result? More potential for them to bleed after brushing.
#2 – Random breakouts
Suddenly finding yourself getting adult acne? Your stress levels could be a culprit. Stress increases inflammation, which can pave the way for bad skin.
#3 Sugar cravings
Can’t kick your sweet tooth in touch? Your hormones may not be to blame. Studies have shown that premenopausal and postmenopausal women continued to have cravings from chocolate and other sweet treats and their drop in cravings was much smaller than you’d expect if hormones were the main culprit. This led researchers to think that stress is a more likely culprit.
#4 Itchy skin
Itchy skin that isn’t linked to a rash or skin condition can be another sign of stress. A Japanese study found that people experiencing chronic itching were around twice as likely to be stressed too. For a lot of people, stress can be a physical trigger for itching.
#5 Tummy troubles
Bellyaches can sometimes be linked to stress. Researchers have found that the brain and the intestines share nerve pathways, which means that stress can trigger digestive problems. One study found that people who were stressed can be over three times more likely to have abdominal pain compared to people who didn’t have a lot of stress in their life.
On a similar note, other types of pain can potentially be linked to stress too. Headaches/migraines, back pain and chest pain can all fall into this category.
#6 Painful period cramps
According to research from Harvard University, women who are stressed are more likely to suffer from super painful menstrual cramps. It’s thought that this is linked to a stress related imbalance of hormones, which triggers pain.
#7 Memory and other cognitive issues
Struggling with foggy/fuzzy thinking and memory problems? Chronic stress can often affect your cognitive function and this can make it hard to focus, make decisions and remember things.
#8 Changes in your sleep patterns
Stress can have some serious effects on how well you sleep (and otherwise!). This can take a few different forms, from struggling to get to sleep in the first place to waking up randomly in the night. You may also find it a super hard challenge to get out of bed in the mornings. If you’ve noticed some changes in your sleep, it can be a sign that stress is having a significant effect on your life – even if you think you’re managing it.
#9 Feeling tired and drained
Feeling physically and emotionally drained is a super common side effect of stress, especially if it it’s chronic. This can be partly linked to poor sleep, which often goes hand in hand with stress. If there aren’t any physical reasons why you’re so drained, it could well be a sign of mounting stress levels.
Are your stress levels getting out of control?
By now, you may be starting to recognize signs that your stress levels have crept up to the point that your physical and emotional health are suffering.
Being mindful of your body can help. When stress builds gradually and becomes the norm, it’s not always easy to be aware of how it affects your body. Mindful activities can get you more in tune with your body and how it’s responding to stress. Mindfulness is the obvious choice of activity here but you can also try meditation, yoga and mindful journaling.
When you start doing these activities regularly and check in with your body on a frequent basis, you can recognize how stressed you really are. You might start to notice that you’re more affected by the type of things that we talked about earlier than you realized, for example.
Exercise can be super effective for managing stress levels. It can bring cortisol in balance and reduce tension in your body.
Use the power of essential oils
Relaxing scents include lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, clary sage or sandalwood. These can be super effective for short term bursts of stress. If you need scents that will help you to deal with long term stress or anxiety, try vanilla or vetiver. These scents are known for their anxiety relieving benefits.
There are plenty of options for using essential oils. You can use a room diffuser or inhale the scent direct from the bottle or on a cotton wool ball. Some other options? Add them a super relaxing, scented aromatherapy bath or apply them topically to your skin (with a carrier oil, as lots of essential oils shouldn’t be used topically without one).