If you suddenly break out in itchy red bumps, stress could be to blame. When you experience excessive stress, your immune system goes haywire and your body starts releasing histamine to fight off your ailments. However, if your stress doesn’t go away, you will develop an allergic reaction that will result in hives. 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 cold, heat, lotions, soap, or laundry detergent.
What to do: Put a cool, damp towel on the affected area. If this doesn’t work, take an antihistamine.
2. Your Weight Starts to Fluctuate
Shanna Levine, MD, a primary care physician and clinical instructor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, says that “stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which impairs your body’s ability to process blood sugar and changes the way you metabolize fat, protein, and carbs, which can lead to weight gain or loss.” Stress can also cause people 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.
If you rarely suffer from headaches but suddenly you keep getting pounding headaches, it could be due to stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases chemicals that can cause changes to nerves and blood vessels in the brain, which brings on a headache. If you’re prone to migraines, stress can trigger them or make them much worse. It’s also common for your muscles to tense up when you’re stressed, which can also cause a headache.
What to do: If you don’t want to take some ibuprofen, try dabbing lavender oil or peppermint oil on your temples when a headache starts.
4. Your Tummy Is Just Off
Stress can disrupt the function of your GI tract in more than one way. For example, it can cause the body to produce more digestive acid, leading to heartburn. According to Deborah Rhodes, MD, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine physician, “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."
What to do: Take an over-the-counter antacid or drink some ginger tea.
5. You Always Have a Cold
Stress suppresses the immune system, which makes it a lot easier for you to get sick and much harder for you to fight off bugs. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh infected volunteers with a cold virus; those who declared that they were coping with many stresses were found to be twice as likely to get sick than those with fewer stress-related problems.
What to do: One study found that zinc supplements can shorten the duration of a cold by about a day if taken within 24 hours of feeling sick. Meditation, exercise, and plenty of sleep can also help you de-stress and boost your immune system.
You thought acne was a thing of the past, but if your face is suddenly a mess of pimples, stress might be the reason why. When you’re stressed, your body pumps out more hormones, like cortisol, which causes skin glands to produce more oil. This excess oil can get trapped inside hair follicles, along with dead skin cells and dirt, 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, you can wash your face with green tea or dab on some pure aloe vera.
7. Your Brain Feels Fuzzy
Stress can make you mentally sick, too. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can make it much harder to focus or concentrate, causing memory problems as well as anxiety or depression.
What to do: Relax until you regain your focus. Practice closing your eyes and breathing in and out, concentrating on only your breath.
8. Your Hair Is Falling Out
Losing a few strands of hair is perfectly normal, but stress can make it worse. Significant stress pushes a large number of hair follicles into what’s known as a resting phase, and then 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 levels have decreased, your hair should begin to grow back.