Chronic stress has serious consequences (think: migraines, depression, heart disease), but most people don’t even realize how frazzled they are, says Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Learn to recognize your body’s stress signs.
1. You’re sniffling and sneezing
Stress can up your reaction to allergens because it weakens your immune system.
Chill out: OTC allergy meds can help, but so can exercise. Regular 30-minute workouts speed the release of epinephrine, your body’s natural decongestant.
2. You’re breaking out
When tense, your body pumps out extra adrenaline that prompts the emission of sebum, your skin’s pimple-causing oil. As production of one goes up, so does the other.
Chill out: Wash problem areas twice a day. Gel- or foam-based cleansers are best for dissolving oil. If those don’t cut the grease, ask your derm for a sebum-busting retinoid cream.
3. Your scalp is patchy
Anxiety may put your strands into no-grow mode because stress hormones can interfere with hair growth.
Chill out: Make sure you’re getting enough iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12, all of which promote hair health. Nosh on foods like broccoli and salmon.
4. Your jaw feels like it’s on fire
You may be grinding your teeth at night, an action triggered by tension.
Chill out: Press a warm washcloth against your jaw for five minutes before you hit the hay. The heat will relax your muscles and help cut down on grinding. Not working? See your dentist to get fitted for a mouth guard.
5. You’re ravenous for junk food
High levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, can prompt you to crave sweets. (Thank your cave sisters, who needed quick energy boosts to deal with tense situations.)
Chill out: Your cravings will last as long as cortisol is rushing through your body, so swap an unsatisfying high-calorie eating spree for some sweet-tasting sugarless gum.
6. Your monthly flow is showing up early, late, or not at all
When stressed, your brain sends out signals that can alter or disrupt ovulation.
Chill out: Talk to your gyno about oral contraceptives. Birth-control pills can rebalance your reproductive hormone levels and get your cycle back on track.