It’s normal to have a stressful day now and then – think about tax season, exam-time or before you go to an interview, for example. Long-term stress however is much more serious and it can lead to a number of health conditions.
Chronic stress from a demanding job or domestic problems puts your body under a daily assault of hormones that can cause a whole host of nagging health problems. The symptoms aren’t always obvious until you’re in trouble – so here are some warning signs:
1. A sore jaw
A sore jaw can be a sign of teeth grinding and clenching, which usually happens when you sleep and can be worsened by stress. Speak to your dentist about a night-time mouth guard-up – it really does help, plus it helps prevent further damage to your teeth.
2. Bad dreams
In a normal progression, dreams get more positive as you sleep, so when you wake up you’re in a better mood. When you’re stressed, you tend to wake up more often during the night – thereby disrupting the natural process and allowing unpleasant dreams to go on all night. Good sleep habits can help: avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, and try to bunk down and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
3. Weekend headaches
The weekend’s supposed to give you a break, but you’re suddenly getting blinding headaches? A sudden drop in stress can trigger migraines. The best way to beat them is to stick to your weekday sleeping and eating schedule on weekends. If the headaches persist though then you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
4. Bleeding gums
Stress can put you at higher risk of gum disease. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums. If your job has you eating dinner at your desk, keep a toothbrush handy, and get enough sleep and exercise to manage that stress.
5. Sudden outbreak of acne
Rising stress can increase the inflammation that leads to skin breakouts. Maintain a good, regular cleansing and moisturising routine, and speak to your doctor or pharmacist about effective products which contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Depending on your age and the severity of your outbreaks, a doctor or dermatologist might prescribe medication along with a specific treatment programme.
Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com
(Medical content vetted by Dr Lynelle Hoeks 2015)