Modern life is relentless and always seems to charge along at full speed, especially now that technology keeps us connected 24/7. With a multitude of things to focus on every day, it can be hard to take care of ourselves. Our bodies, however, are pretty good at giving us clues when we need to slow down. Here are five signs that you need a break:
1. Persistent colds
How long have you had that streaming nose and that itch at the back of your throat? Stop for a second and think about it. The symptoms of an average cold can last for up to two weeks, but should clear up by the end of one. So if you’ve been sniffling for two weeks or longer, that could mean that your brain is sending your body a set of fight-or-flight signals that depress the immune system.
If you just can’t shift that cold, you might benefit from a couple of days off work or a weekend away. This should get your stress levels back to normal and give your immune system time to start working normally again.
2. Skin complaints
If you’re already prone to conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis, stress and anxiety will often make them worse. Usually, skin becomes more oily when you’re stressed, but anyone who notices symptoms like dry skin on face or unusual rashes might also find that they improves your stress levels go down.
If dry skin on your face is a particular problem for you, avoid over-washing – this will only make your body produce more oil to make up for what you’re sluicing off. Long, hot baths or showers could also make your symptoms worse. Try to stick to mild, fragrance free skin care products.
3. Palpitations and panic attacks
When you’re scared, your heart beats faster to pump more blood to your limbs so you can get away from danger more quickly. But if the source of your stress is a persistent problem playing on your mind, rather than a tiger in the room, those palpitations can turn into panic attacks.
If your heart is racing and you’re having trouble breathing, try to take yourself somewhere quiet – if possible, with someone reassuring whom you trust. Get yourself a drink of water, and find something – a smell, a taste, a texture – that will anchor you in the present moment. Take your time.
4. Headaches and migraines
According to MedicineNet.com, tension headaches are considered to be one of the most common types of headache. You’re particularly at risk of tension headaches if you respond to stress by clenching your jaw or tensing your shoulders. They can also trigger nausea and light sensitivity in people who regularly suffer from migraines.
If your head is starting to hurt because of stress, over the counter pain medication should help you out. It’s also a good idea to try to make sure you’re staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep – fatigue and insomnia will make your symptoms worse – and to take things more slowly for a little while. If your headaches are frequent and persistent, see your doctor.
5. Hair loss
We joke about tearing our hair out due to stress, but the condition is so common it has a name: trichotillomania. The Mayo Clinic lists two other stress-related conditions that can cause hair loss: telogen effluvium, where stress hormones push hair follicles into a resting phase, and alopecia, where the immune system attacks your hair.
It’s always best to speak to your doctor if you’re noticing patchy growth or significant hair loss. They might also recommend a course of CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) or mindfulness to treat trichotillomania.
Symptoms like dry skin – particularly dry skin on your face – along with acne, itching, patchy hair, and physical discomfort, can add to your stress. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or doctors. With the right treatment and techniques, you could soon have your stress under control.