From disrupting our sleep (hello, insomnia) to triggering moodiness and in extreme cases, leading to burnout, we’re all vaguely aware of the common symptoms of stress.
However, stress goes far beyond these symptoms and it can actually manifest itself in our daily lives in a plethora of ways. This causes too many of us to brush off these unfamiliar symptoms as “a bad day” or “that time of the month”, when you really should really be taking appropriate action to care for your mental health and address the root cause. And while a little stress can be good for you, there comes a point when it can become chronic and be detrimental to your overall health.
So, aside from fatigue, headaches, insomnia and other more common symptoms, we sought the help of psychologist Rucha Lele to reveal some of the more foreign ways your body reacts to stress. Being able to identify these symptoms will aid you with the knowledge to take immediate action next time you’re feeling “off” and can’t pinpoint why.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000. If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.
1. Hair loss and premature greying
“Chronic stress may stop hair follicles from growing, leading to increased fallout and therefore thinning of hair. Stress can also impact the amount of pigment in your hair, leading to more grey hairs.” And let’s be honest, we wouldn't wish this upon our worst enemy!
2. Increased sensitivity to pain
“Stress can cause you to have exaggerated responses to even the smallest amounts of pain, possibly because stress changes the effectiveness of the hormones that help manage pain.”
3. Reduced fertility
When you're stressed, your body produces higher levels of cortisol, which can lead to low libido and impact fertility.
“Prolonged stress can impact women’s reproductive cycle regularity and decrease rates of ovulation. For men, it can reduce sperm count and motility.”
4. Lump in throat sensation
Have you ever felt like there’s a lump in your throat, making it difficult for you to swallow? It might be stress. “This could be due to the muscles in the lower part of your throat constricting more than usual because your body is tense.”
5. Heightened sense of smell
“The parts of the brain that are associated with emotion and sense of smell (Olfaction) have quite a close relationship. Therefore, when you're under emotional stress, in particular, it can heighten your sense of smell.”
6. Increased thirst
"Feeling anxious can cause the adrenal glands to release a whole lot of stress hormones into your body, which causes adrenal fatigue and in turn, affects other hormones responsible for your electrolyte and fluid levels." The result? The constant need for water.
7. Loss of memory
“Chronic stress can impact your spatial memory, which includes names of locations and objects.” It explains why many of us experienced 'pandemic brain' as a result of the global health crisis.
If that’s not enough to raise concern, left untreated and your brain can actually shrink.
“Stress can affect your brain's ability to produce new synapses (the communication pathways between brain cells), resulting in lower grey matter volume and a smaller brain.”