Headaches can signal you're more stressed than you think
By Pure Matters
Your body may be giving you clues that you need more time for calm. Here are seven messages to watch for -- and some soothing ways to react.
The occasional manic Monday is a fact of modern life. But if you're under chronic stress -- suffering a daily assault of stress hormones from a demanding job or personal life -- symptoms may be subtler. Here are some signs that it's time to take a timeout.
A sore jaw can be a sign of teeth grinding, which can be worsened by stress. Ask your dentist about a nighttime mouth guard -- up to 70 percent of people who use one reduce or stop grinding altogether.
Dreams usually get progressively more positive as you sleep, so you wake up in a better mood than you were in when you went to bed. But when you're stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting this process and allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night. Good sleep habits can help prevent this; aim for seven to eight hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
According to a Brazilian analysis of 14 past studies, stressed-out people have a higher risk of periodontal disease. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums, say researchers. If you're working long hours and eating dinner at your desk, keep a toothbrush on hand. And protect your mouth by exercising and sleeping more, which will help lower stress.
A Japanese study of more than 2,000 people found that those with chronic itch were twice as likely to be stressed out as those without the condition. Although an annoying itch problem can certainly cause stress, experts say it's likely that feeling anxious or tense also aggravates underlying conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.
Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine found that allergy sufferers had more symptoms after they took an anxiety-inducing test, compared with when they performed a task that did not make them tense. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, a blood protein that causes allergic reactions.
One study of 1,953 men and women found that those experiencing the highest levels of stress were more than three times as likely to have abdominal pain as their more-relaxed counterparts. The exact connection is still unclear, but one theory holds that the intestines and the brain share nerve pathways; when the mind reacts to stress, the intestines pick up the same signal. (If you have frequent bellyaches, see your doc to rule out food allergies, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or an ulcer.)
If you do need more calm, go for a walk or simply turn off your phone.