Could your ailments be down to stress?

WORDS BY Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

We often jump straight to physical causes when trying to work out where our illness have come from – but our mental wellbeing can cause some alarming physical symptoms. April is Stress Awareness month, so we spoke to the team at The Online Clinic to find out which physical symptoms might be a sign that you are too stressed.

1. Insomnia

Trouble sleeping is a classic sign that something is bothering you. If you are stressed and unable to sleep it can keep you awake throughout the night, which can then make things even worse as you lack the deep sleep needed in order to rest and repair the body’s tissues.

There are a few things you can do to step out of this cycle. First – try to stick to a routine that teaches your body clock when it is time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Make your bedroom a peaceful, quiet and dark place that’s a comfortable temperature.

Secondly, make sure you create a period of relaxation before you go to sleep. Off-load your concerns by writing a “to-do” list before you go to bed, rather than when you are lying in bed. This should mean that you are more relaxed when it is time to try and sleep.

2. Alopecia

Hair loss is often a natural and unavoidable part of aging – but premature hair loss might be a sign that stress is getting too much for your body to cope with. When you feel stress, your immune system can become strained and may attack the hair follicles – causing bald patches and hair loss. The only way to tell if stress is the cause of hair loss is to make a note of when you notice it and what your mood is at the time, to see if the two could be linked.

3. Migraines

Migraines can be triggered by a whole range of causes – including hormonal imbalances, dehydration, and diet – but psychological factors such as stress can also have an impact.

People who suffer from migraines have very sensitive nervous systems that are very perceptive to change. They might have chemicals in the brain which cause them to respond abnormally to signals. Stress can become one of these signals that can “trigger” a migraine attack. Keep a “migraine diary” to check in on what’s happening in your life when they appear to try and find the causes.

Taking the time to calm and down and relax can help you both physically and mentally. Your mental health affects all areas of your life and is just as important as your physical health. Keeping a diary of your health issues including your mood and diet can help to pinpoint what is triggering your health conditions. This can also be useful to show a doctor if you choose to seek medical advice.

Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic


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