By Betty Murray
It’s easy to ignore the signs of burnout between work, caring for your family and keeping up with the expectations of family and friends. But a stress-related meltdown isn’t just bad for your mental health it’s bad for your physical health as well. It can lead to emotional disorders, hypertension and heart problems, headaches and even obesity.
While stress in and of itself isn’t a bad thing (as it helps us meet deadlines, perform athletically, etc.), prolonged stress is bad for your health. If you are under stress for a long period of time, eventually something will break. People cope with stress in a variety of ways. Some turn to exercise or meditation to relieve stress, while others turn to food or alcohol. These are all common coping mechanisms, but they are not all healthy. By relying on food or alcohol to reduce stress, you are setting yourself up for addiction and the negative effects food or substance addiction can have on your body — including weight gain.
Why wait until you are already stressed out or on the verge of a mental or emotional meltdown? Here are a few signs you’re stressed out and need to relax before you reach meltdown mode.
- You gain weight, even though you’ve been watching what you eat. When you are stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. That hormone stimulates growth and production of fat cells, making weight gain almost inevitable.
- Your eyelids twitch. Muscle spasms are often related to stress and anxiety. The obnoxious twitches are the result of tense muscles. If your eyelids are twitching, try breathing deeply and relaxing to release those tense muscles.
- You get heartburn when you eat quickly. A stressful lifestyle sometimes causes people to rush through meals because they feel they are on such a tight schedule. Eating too quickly, combined with consuming lots of caffeine can lead to acid reflux.
- You experience more aches and pains. Stress causes your muscles to tense up all over your body, which can lead to headaches, backaches, neck aches and other aches and pains. Exercise such as yoga will help you feel better and reduce your tension and stress.
- You have frequent stomachaches. The brain’s nervous system is linked to the GI tract, so tummy troubles are a common sign of stress. Exercise, over-the-counter drugs and dietary changes (lots of fiber) will help.
- You’re losing your hair. Stress hormones can affect the hair follicles, causing temporary hair loss following stressful events. A balanced diet may help restore cell and hair growth.
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, it’s a surefire sign you’re simply stressed out. Take some time to yourself. Add exercise into your daily routine. Change up your diet, and perhaps even spend some time pampering yourself. Lowering your stress level will result in a happier, healthier you.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.