Are you under stress right now? Most people would respond with a resounding “yes!” While some stress is normal and not always unhealthy, it’s good to know when you’re experiencing unusual stress so you can quickly address it before it gets worse and starts affecting your health. Consider the following eight signs that you may be more stressed than you realize.
1. Your Dreams Are Odd
It’s believed that dreams get progressively better as you sleep, so you wake up in a better mood. However, when you’re stressed, your sleep is often interrupted and so this healthy dream cycle is also interrupted. In addition, your mind may be racing, frantically going over events that are causing you stress, and this mental process can make your dreams more vivid, more frightening, and just downright odd.
2. Your Mouth Aches
Stress can cause you to clench your jaw at night and even during the day, though you may not even realize you are doing this. However, your mouth and jaw will ache, especially when you awaken. You may also find yourself opening and closing your mouth to force it to relax and as a response to the pain.
3. Cravings For Comfort Foods And Sweets
Sugary foods and those with a high concentration of simple carbohydrates release endorphins in the body, those “feel good” chemicals that make you happier and more relaxed. When you’re under unusual stress, your body may prompt cravings for these comfort foods so it can naturally release endorphins. When you’re having sudden cravings, don’t assume it’s just natural hunger—check your stress levels.
4. Unusually Itchy Skin
It’s thought that stress can aggravate the nerves under the skin. It may also sap moisture from your system, leading your skin to become itchy and irritated. If you already suffer from dry skin and conditions like eczema and psoriasis, they may get suddenly worse when you’re stressed.
5. Tummy Aches
There are a couple theories about why you get stomach cramps when you’re under unusual stress. One is that your body may be diverting blood from the digestive system to other muscles in the body, as part of the “fight or flight” response. Another hypothesis is that the digestive system and the brain share a nerve pathway, so that your stomach feels stress as much as your brain. Either way, if you notice unusual tummy aches and cannot explain them by what you’ve eaten or with reference to your menstrual cycle, stress may be the culprit.
6. Feeling Distracted
When you’re under stress, your mind may be trying to subconsciously solve a problem or you may be distracted by the stressful situation. Either way, you might have trouble concentrating. You may notice that when you’re stressed, you can be looking right at someone but yet have no idea what they’re saying. You may be forgetful, or struggle to remember something that was just said. Don’t assume it’s Attention Deficit Disorder or another serious mental condition—check your stress levels instead.
7. Slouching or Slumping
You may slouch or slump when stressed because your muscles are cramping up; they often get tense as another part of that “fight or flight” response. When your back muscles get tense, they tend to curve and, in turn, pull your upper body forward or down. You may not even notice that you’re slouching until it’s pointed out to you or until you realize your back muscles are sore and stiff.
8. Bleeding Gums
When you’re stressed, your immune system is compromised. The mouth is already full of germs and bacteria, so having a weakened immune response can mean being prone to irritated gums, periodontal disease and oral infections. These conditions all cause bleeding gums. You may also inadvertently brush too hard when you’re under stress, irritating your gums and cause them to bleed.
It’s good to remember that you may experience more than one of these symptoms of excess stress, or you may suffer from one severe symptom. You should always see a doctor about any health concerns you have, but if you notice any of these eight symptoms then check your stress levels first. Relaxation techniques and eliminating sources of that extra stress can be all that’s needed to keep you healthy.