If you’ve ever turned in a big project for work and then come down with a cold a few days later, or experienced financial worries
during the day and then had a sleepless night, you know the physical toll stress can take. “Stress can have devastating effects on your physical body and affect virtually every organ either directly or indirectly,” says Dayry Hulkow, a therapist at Vista Pines Health
in Pembroke Pines, FL.
While your body is equipped to handle stress in small doses (think of the nerves you might feel before delivering a speech), research shows ongoing
stress can have long-term effects on the body when you don’t know how to release that tension. Chronic stress is a serious condition that can impact your mental health
, as well as your muscles, cardiovascular health and even your reproductive system.
Top Signs You’re Over-Stressed
You have headaches.
Stress causes muscle tension, which in turn can lead to headaches and migraines as well as back and neck pain, says Hulkow. The more chronic the stress, the more frequent and intense your headaches or migraines may be. (Check out these weird ways stress affects your body
You’re always sick.
that psychological stress can suppress your body’s immune system, making you more likely to get sick if you come across germs. It’ll also be more challenging to fight off an infection and heal quickly once you are sick.
Your hair is thinning.
Prolonged stress exposure can damage your hair, according to scientific research
. If your hair isn’t growing as fast as it usually does, looks duller than usual or is even falling out, it could be a sign that it’s time to de-stress.
How to Combat Stress, Based on How Much Time You Have
30-second stress buster.
Take a deep breath, inhaling for a count of 10. Hold your breath for 10 counts, then exhale slowly counting backwards from 10. Breathwork is a stress relaxation
technique that can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, according to science
5-minute stress buster.
Listen to a song that has a positive uplifting message. Music can help reduce stress
by reducing the levels of stress-related hormones in your body. “I’ve been listening to ‘Good Job’ by Alicia Keys whenever I need to let go of stress while regaining a sense of hope and gratitude,” says Hulkow.
30-minute stress buster.
Take a walk in the park. Or a jog on the beach (or try yoga instead!)
. Or bike around your neighborhood. It matters less what you do, and more that you lace up some comfortable shoes, get outside and move. Engaging in regular physical exercise can help you manage stress while also helping you sleep better at night, feel energized and stabilize your mood.
Of course, sometimes, despite your efforts to manage stress on your own, it can be overwhelming. “It’s important to seek professional help if stress becomes chronic or unmanageable,” says Hulkow. “Talking to a therapist can help each person look deeper into the root cause of their struggles and explore effective ways of coping.”
Remember, stress is not something you have to live with. Doing these exercises regularly (and anytime you’re feeling anxious) will eventually train your body to head straight for relaxation mode when a stressful situation arises. Until then, just breathe.