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When the pain of mental health isn’t all in your head – it’s in your body too!

When your body talks, you need to listen.

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Credit to Singler Studios.
Credit to Singler Studios.

Stress hurts, no I mean literally hurts. Most days we’re so busy holding it all together we often don’t even make the connection between stress and physical pain in our body. Stress hormones cause our body systems to go into fight or flight mode and our bodies are not meant to handle the constant release of these hormones. It can cause physical pain anywhere from our heads to our toes.
When we feel the physical pain we often look for other excuses. We downplay the clues. It might turn up as reoccurring headaches (maybe I need to get my eyes checked). It might turn up as a stiff neck (maybe my head wasn’t on my pillow properly last night). It might turn up as a pain in our abdomen (maybe I ate something that didn’t agree with me). Stress can be sneaky, very sneaky. You just don’t see it until you start paying attention. The signs are there but they can be subtle.
Here are 8 of the most common signs that stress is taking a physical toll on your body.

  1. Your muscles are sore and tense.
    You’re noticing that by evening the back of your neck feels stiff. It could be your stressful day.
    When stress hormones are released in your body your muscles respond by involuntarily tensing up. You may feel it as a sore neck or a nagging pain in your lower back after a stressful work day.
  2. You are having more headaches.
    For the third day this week you notice you are taking an over the counter pain medication out of your medicine cabinet for a headache.
    Tension headaches and migraines are a common side effect of stress.
  3. Your stomach is upset more often.
    You notice that your stomach just hasn’t been feeling right.
    Your digestive system is slowed down during the stress response. As a consequence your digestive system may feel; nausea, constipation, bloating, cramping, heart burn or gas.
  4. You are losing more hair.
    You’re noticing when you go to clean your shower there is more hair in your shower drain.
    Stress and hair loss are linked. If you’re noticing more hair loss than normal it might be related to your stress level.
  5. You have pain in your mouth.
    Every morning this week you felt a pain in your jaw when you woke up.
    Sometimes increased stress levels cause us to grind our teeth when we sleep causing pain in our teeth and jaws.
  6. Your experiencing chest pain or a rapid heart beat.
    You notice at the grocery line check out that your heart is beating fast.
    When we are stressed and release stress hormones this can cause a short term increase in our heart rate, blood pressure and even chest pain. Over time stress can take a toll on our cardiovascular system.
  7. You have weight and appetite changes.
    For the fourth day in a row you’ve stopped at the bakery on the way home from work and you’re noticing your pants feel snug.
    When stressed it shows in our appetites. Weight changes can be in both directions. Some people have weight gain and others have weight loss.
  8. Your sex drive has taken a dip.

When night time comes all you can think about when you hit the hay is sleep. There might be a reason. When we are stressed we release the hormone cortisol and which can cause our sex drive to take a nose dive.

These are 8 common signs that can appear in your body when you are experiencing increased stress levels. Take notice. Think about ways to manage your stress when the signs first appear. Your body is talking – you need to listen.

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