Stress can cause everything from a minor headache to a migraine. This mainly happens due to the “fight or flight” chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol that your body releases during stress. Plus, it makes your muscles tense up, leading to more pain.
Stress is mostly related to tension headaches, the most common type of headache that causes persistent pain on both sides of the head.
Tension headaches are often accompanied by a heavy feeling in the head and behind the eyes and a tightening sensation in the neck muscles.
In a study published in Cephalalgia in 2015, researchers reported an association between stress and headaches. In this study of 5,159 participants (ages 21 to 71 years) over two years, tension-type headaches (TTH) were reported in 31 percent of participants, migraines in 14 percent and migraine with coexisting TTH in 10.6 percent.
You can’t avoid daily stress and you must not allow stress to go to your head. But, you can definitely keep stress under control to help prevent headaches.
Disturbs Your Sleep Cycle
Stress can affect your sleep quality and lead to disturbed sleep.
Sleep is important for your health and lack of it can hugely affect both your physical and mental health. Over time, it can lead to chronic health problems and negatively impact your quality of life.
Stress is known to cause hyperarousal, which upsets the balance between sleep and wakefulness. This causes sleep problems.
Makes You Gain Weight
If you are overweight or obese, stress can be a reason behind it.
When you are under stress, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that makes you crave sugar and high-fat foods. Plus, constant stress or worry causes adrenal fatigue, which in turn causes your body to store more fat by stores and the size of the fat cells. This leads to weight gain.
A 2007 study published in Nutrition suggests that chronic stress may be causally linked to weight gain, with a greater effect seen in men. Stress-induced eating may be one factor contributing to the development of obesity.
Another study published in the Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity in 2009 reports that chronic stress, combined with positive energy balance, may contribute to an increased risk for obesity, especially upper-body obesity, and other metabolic diseases.
Another interesting study published in Preventive Medicine in 2015 shows that girls who experience family stress, specifically family disruption and financial stress, repeatedly throughout childhood are more likely to become overweight by the time they turn 18.
Instead of reaching for that pint of ice cream when you’re stressed, do meditation or practice deep breathing to reduce stress.
Stress can also upset your digestive system and lead to chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract due to the rush of hormones, fast heart rate and rapid breathing. It can lead to indigestion, stomach pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting.
A study published in the journal Gut in the year 2000 notes that stressful life events are associated with chronic digestive system disorders, including gastro-esophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and peptic ulcer disease.
In fact, stress and gastrointestinal problems have a complex and bidirectional relationship as stress can trigger or worsen gastrointestinal symptoms and vice versa.