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Holistic Health

10 Effects of stress you might not recognize

Young woman feeling stressed
J Malacoff Headshot
Julia Malacoff May, 14, 2019

Writer, trainer, nail art aficionado

You've probably noticed that when you're super stressed your body and mind just don't feel quite right. Whether you're trying to get some much-needed rest, finish up an important project or even just hang out with your friends, you might find yourself feeling, well, kind of off.

Turns out, the effects of stress — whether it stems from work or something going on in your personal life — can be far-reaching, both psychologically and physically. In fact, you may even see changes to your skin's health!

Unexpected physical and emotional effects of stress

Thankfully, there are many ways to maintain your well-being during stressful times. Here are 10 of the most common effects you may experience while stressed — and helpful strategies for dealing with them.

1. Mounting anxiety

If you've ever dealt with anxiety, you've probably noticed that it gets worse when the stress piles on. That's because over the long term, stress can contribute to anxiety, making it even harder to relax. Taking steps to reduce your stress can help, but if anxiety becomes a daily issue, it's a good idea to touch base with a mental health practitioner of your choice.

2. Poorly-timed breakouts

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, you notice a new crop of pimples has appeared on your face. It's a cruel fact of life: When you feel stressed, you're more likely to have a breakout! Products targeted at clearing up acne can help, as well as washing your face morning and night with a high-quality cleanser to remove dirt and bacteria.

3. Feelings of burnout and exhaustion

If you're constantly feeling overwhelmed, it could be a sign of burnout, which can be caused by prolonged stress. When this happens, prioritize making time for yourself — even carving out just a few minutes to relax can make a big difference. Target nonessential activities and try to either cut them out of your day or reduce their importance.

4. Tossing and turning in bed

Lying awake in bed feeling like sleep just won't come is very common among the overstressed. On days when you're under a lot of pressure, ease into sleep by drinking an herbal tea before bedtime or surrounding yourself with the scent of lavender. It's also wise to avoid staring at screens for the last hour before you go to sleep.

5. Being in a bad mood ... often

Depression is also linked to stress. Even if you're not facing clinical depression, your mood might dip on days when you're particularly stressed. To counteract this, try doing an activity that brings you joy, like watching your favorite movie, chatting with a good friend or playing with a pet.

tired african-american business woman with headache at office, feeling sick at work, copy space

6. Pounding headaches

When your head is pounding, you might not think stress is behind your pain. However, headaches are actually one of the more well-established effects of stress. If you think your headaches might be stress-related, try relaxing with deep breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.

7. Feeling like you can't get any work done

When you're really stressed out, you probably have a dozen thoughts bouncing around, all competing for space in your mind. It can be difficult to stay productive when you're fending off unwanted distractions, so feel empowered to take a quick break! This can restore your motivation and ability to focus.

8. Wanting to eat everything — or nothing at all

Some people deal with stress by eating everything in sight (usually unhealthy snack foods). Others lose interest in food entirely. Try to find the middle ground; focus on making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs so you have the energy to power through even the most stressful days.

9. Less interest in socializing

Do you keep skipping brunch with your friends because you just don't feel like going? Stress could be the culprit. Spending time with others has been shown to lift your mood — but if a group outing feels like too much, start small and meet up with a close friend for a one-on-one hang.

10. Pain in your neck, back and muscles

It's not necessarily your imagination: That crick in your neck might have actually been getting worse since you've started overscheduling yourself! Stress has been linked to muscle tension, especially in the neck and upper back area. If this sounds familiar, trying some massage, gentle exercise and stretching may help you unwind.

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