10 Signs Your Body Is Stressed
We all know that stress seems to be part of the modern way of life – I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who has no stress in their lives at all, whether it’s rooted in work, social, environmental, financial, health or lifestyle issues (or a combination). Stress is simply defined as a “nonspecific response of the body to any demand,” and given the number of demands we place on ourselves throughout our day, it might be no wonder that we’re always under some form of stress.
Most of us can recognise the signs of acute stress, like what might happen before public speaking – the butterflies, the sweating, the palpitations, and focal-vision. But signs of being in a chronic, low-grade stressed state can be more subtle and easy to miss. Here are some ways you can tell that your body is under stress.
1. You are always tired, even after a good night’s sleep.
Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t feel human until you’ve got at least one, maybe 2 or 3 coffees under your belt. Constantly feeling tired indicates that you’re not producing enough energy to keep up with the demands of your day, which may mean your adrenals are shouldering that burden (but they can get tired, too).
2. You’re “wired” at night – you experience an energy boost at night and you can’t sleep, or you wake through the night.
This is a clear sign that your stress hormones are out-of-whack and disrupting your sleep-wake cycle. Blue light can play a big role in this, so make sure you put your phones down at least an hour before bed.
3. You have a low libido.
Libido is one of the first things to go out the window with stress. To put it simply, when you’re stressed out, your body is so focussed on keeping you alive and functioning that it puts any idea of reproduction on the back burner.
4. You experience hormonal issues and/or period problems such as PMS, period pain or heavy bleeding.
See point 3 above. In a state of stress, your body just wants to focus on keeping YOU alive, and tries to encourage you from creating an even more stressed state by becoming pregnant. The systems that control your hormones become dis regulated, which means you stop producing hormones in the best way – maybe you under-produce progesterone or over-produce oestrogen, which have effects on your monthly cycle.
5. You are always cold, or have constantly cold hands and feet.
In Chinese Medicine, this is a clear sign that your body is stressed. Your Liver (which is in control of the smooth, free flowing of energy and resources in your body) diverts all your resources to your vital organs, leaving your fingers and toes to freeze (after all, keeping your heart beating is far more important that your toes, as far as the body is concerned).
6. You have a low resting pulse rate.
We glorify having a low pulse in today’s world, but this isn’t always a good thing – often times, a slow pulse indicated the body has slowed its metabolism (usually because the input of energy is not equal to the output), which lowers heart rate.
7. You have digestive issues
Bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion are all signs that your body is prioritising those life-saving functions (like keeping your heart beating) over your digestion. Eating slowly, and taking time out to enjoy your meals calmly and quietly (read: NOT EATING AT YOUR DESK) will help.
8. You find it hard to switch off, and are always checking your phone.
This is another sign that your stress-systems are heightened and alert, looking for the next threat.
9. You feel like you need intense workouts to “burn it off” or you’re always thinking about the things you didn’t get done
A lack of ability to rest and relax is never a good thing.
10. You have a low (or no) appetite, especially in the mornings.
This one is so common. Believe it or not, it’s actually a good thing to be hungry in the mornings! It means your circadian rhythm is in sync and your metabolism is firing.
If you’ve got to the end of this list and realised that it describes you to a tee, don’t despair – there are ways to turn things around.
In our society we have this fixation on trying to eliminate stress entirely from our lives – and let’s be real, this isn’t going to happen. Stress will ALWAYS creep into our lives in one form or another, and that’s completely ok. What is important is to learn how to improve our resilience to stress.
“It is not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it” – Hans Selye
So how do we become more resilient to stress in our lives? It all comes back to looking after our bodies.
TIPS FOR STRESS RESILIENCE
- Note how you feel after you exercise. You might feel fabulous for a few hours afterward (exercise can boost our adrenaline levels, which will have us feeling GOOD), but if you’re crashing in the afternoon after your workout, or struggling to get up the morning after, it might be time to dial down the HIIT and replace it with some walking, yoga or pilates.
- Make sure you’re eating enough, and eating at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Most people need to eat something every 3-4 hours to achieve this, and sometimes more often when under stress. Combining carbohydrates, protein and fat with each meal and each snack will be super helpful for this.
- When you’re in a period of stress, please avoid fasting! When we fast, we end up using cortisol (a stress hormone released by your adrenal glands) to keep our blood sugar levels up, which keeps us stuck in a physically stressed-out state
- Get enough sleep – 7-9 hours a night. Yes, every night. If you don’t give your body the chance to repair overnight, you’re going to start the next day already playing catchup.
- Get outside in the morning. Light exposure first thing in the morning can go a long way to helping our circadian rhythms adjust to a new day.
- Remember to rest throughout the day. You don’t need to “earn” the right to rest, or take a nap. That idea is rooted in harmful productivity culture. Take 10 minutes to sit quietly with a cuppa, or take a nap after lunch – rest is productive.
- Reconnect with joy in your life – this can be through listening to music, dancing, or picking up a hobby that you’ve always been drawn to. This is especially important for the Heart, in Chinese Medicine, and can be immensely helpful in healing from stressful events.
- Get in touch with your support tribe – this one is so important, especially for parents! Don’t be afraid to tell those you love that you need help.
Until next time,
Dr Grace Jones
About the Author:
Dr. Grace Jones (BHSc.Acu) is the founder at Bloom Chinese Medicine. She is a passionate and nationally qualified and registered acupuncturist, with special interests in women’s health, natural fertility, pregnancy, digestive health and emotional wellness. Learn more about Grace here.
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