A couple of months ago I talked about some issues I’d been having with itchy skin in this post on 21 Home Remedies For Dry, Itchy Skin. While I’ve had some ups and downs since then…I still haven’t been able to completely resolve it. This week has been particularly trying. I have tried every homeopathic and traditional medical remedy I (or my doctor) can think of to cure the itching, and still the problem persists. Which leaves me facing the fact that it’s being caused by what I have feared all along: STRESS.
I have spent a lot of time in the last few days reading up on the effects that stress can have on the body…and guess what one of the most common is? Yep. Itchy skin and hives. Bingo.
I also discovered a host of OTHER “conditions” that can be caused or worsened by stress that I found equally surprising! So I thought I would share some of them with you…just in case you are in the same boat I am.
First…my major complaint…..
Itchy Skin & Rashes
Stress can cause itchy skin & rashes, usually raised red spots or hives on the stomach, back, arms and face. Some experts believe that it has to do with the adverse effects of stress on the immune system—histamine is released, causing itchy bumps. Feeling anxious or tense can also aggravate EXISTING conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.
Stress triggers inflammation of the body and inflammation is the physical cause of acne. Despite the fact that acne is most prevalent in teenagers, adults frequently suffer from acne as well. Unfortunately this process is cyclical; more acne leads to more stress and so on.
The stress we deal with during the day tends to follow us to bed at night and plays out in our dreams. Have you ever had that dream where you miss your bus or your house is on fire? Those are two of the five most common stress dreams.
Dreams normally get progressively more positive as you sleep, but when you’re stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting this process and allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. (haha…ok…I’ll try!)
When under stress, some people will grind their teeth in their sleep or clench their jaw while awake, often without realizing it. Both can lead to pain — and can damage your teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities. Your dentist can set you up with a mouth guard to prevent further stress-induced wear and tear.
Painful Menstrual Cramps
Stressed-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful menstrual cramps as those who are less tense, according to a Harvard study. Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones. Hitting the gym can soothe cramps and stress.
Stress can mess with your stomach. One study of 1,953 men and women found that those experiencing the highest levels of stress were more than three times as likely to have abdominal pain as their more-relaxed counterparts.
While the link between stress and gastro problems is not entirely understood, it seems to make the intestines more sensitive and contract more. Stress can also exacerbate ulcers and keep them from healing.
However, if you have frequent bellyaches, see your doctor to rule out food allergies, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or an ulcer.
Stress lowers our immune system, leaving us at risk for frequent colds. Researchers believe stressed people’s immune cells may be less sensitive to a hormone that turns off inflammation. Unable to regulate the inflammatory response, we are more likely to develop a cold when exposed to a virus.
Allergy sufferers also have more symptoms when they are under stress. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, a blood protein that causes allergic reactions.
The Mayo Clinic explains that stress can cause white blood cells to attack the hair follicle and stop growth, and it may also put hair follicles into a “resting phase,” so hairs fall out during washing or combing.
Studies have linked cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, to cravings for sugar and fat. Ironically, sugar prompts the adrenal glands to release MORE stress hormones, keeping us trapped in a vicious cycle. And, of course, the more carbs you eat, the heavier you get and the worse you feel.
Stress hormones cause your body to surge with adrenaline and then crash into sleepiness. Plus, stress will also ruin the quality of your sleep, so you wake up tired and irritable.
Any woman who is trying to do it all will admit to a few slip-ups in the memory department – misplacing items, missing appointments, losing track of conversations…any of these sound familiar? They sure do to me!
Research shows that chronic stress can literally shrink the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for some memories. Luckily, its size will go back to normal once your stress level reduces.
You can’t decide what to make for dinner, what to wear to work or which exit to take off the freeway. Stress causes distraction and lack of focus because the mind is overworked. Brain cells actually die when stress levels are too high. Stress can also cause confusion because you are going at such a fast pace that you lose or forget things that you would normally remember.
Have you ever had your eye start to twitch? I hate when that happens! An eye twitch is yet another annoying condition that can be triggered by stress, especially when it is related to vision problems such as eye strain. Eye strain from overuse of computers, tablets and smartphones is a very common cause of vision-related stress.
Stress causes us to tense our muscles and this can lead to two different issues. When the muscles are tense they may need to spasm (cramp) in order to rebuild some of their energy. In addition, tense muscles often become tired muscles and tired muscles are also prone to muscle cramping.
Nervous habits like nail-biting are how we channel our stress by distracting ourselves with what is known as oral satisfaction. Picking nails and cuticles is also a common way women deal with feelings of stress and anxiety.
Stress alters the neurochemical makeup of the body, which can affect the maturing and release of the human egg. Stress can also cause the fallopian tubes and uterus to spasm, which can affect implantation. Stress in men can affect sperm coun and can cause erectile dysfunction. In fact, stress may account for up to 30% of all infertility problems.
OK, now that I’ve STRESSED you out by making you feel that everything that ails you is caused by STRESS….allow me to STRESS that you should always discuss concerns with your doctor before chalking them up to the STRESSES in your life.
If you decide your issues ARE stress-related…while we may not be able to CONTROL stress, we can manage it. Here are some simple tips to help you feel less stressed – every day:
- Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Halt stress in its tracks; if you feel overwhelmed, take a walk or a drive.
- Try to minimize stress whenever possible. Know when to say “no” to new responsibilities, and when to delegate to others.
- Manage your time. Give yourself time to get things done.
- Do things that are pleasurable, like reading or gardening.
- Take 15-20 minutes every day to sit quietly and reflect. Learn and practice relaxation techniques like yoga or deep breathing.
- Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. And don’t smoke.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
Now all I need to do is follow my own advice and DO AS I POST! :-) Wish me luck!
Do any of these “stress effects” describe you?