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5 Secret Signs You’re Stressed

Sleepless nights, panic attacks, irritability. Most of us are familiar with the typical signs of stress – but would you recognize under-the-radar symptoms, too?

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Secret Signs You’re Stressed: Itchy skin

A 2012 poll of by the British Association of Dermatologists found that doctors were blaming recent economic stresses for the increase in patients suffering from itchy skin conditions. When our bodies release histamine during stressful situations, our skin often reacts with the appearance of itchy hives. Eczema, psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions can flare when stress runs high, too.

The fix: Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a Belleville, Ontario family physician, discourages itchy skin sufferers from treating this problem on their own. Over-the-counter preparations can be too weak to adequately deal with serious skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. “[These ailments] are treated differently, so consult with your doctor to find the best cream for you,” he says. Less serious irritations such as hives often respond to an antihistamine and cream combination. Your doctor can suggest the best products for you.

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Curled toes

People often curl their toes under when stressed. Like tensing your shoulders or neck, curled toes are a dead giveaway that you’re under pressure or feeling anxious.

The fix:
Dr. Kerr says that these tight postures can be your body’s coping mechanism against stress. If your toes are balled up, he suggests getting out of your chair to ease this stressful clench. “Do something to relax whether it’s walking around the office, stretching or going outside.”

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 Increased period pain

When stress rises, hormones can become unbalanced, causing menstrual cramps to increase in duration and severity during your period.

The fix: “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be a great fix for this increased pain,” says Dr. Kerr. “Exercise has been shown in many studies to reduce stress and the intensity of menstrual cramps.” Go for a run, ride your bike or take a yoga class. It’s also important to adopt hobbies or activities that you enjoy. “Doing things that you love increases your happy hormones and decreases stress hormones, reducing the amount of menstrual-type pain that you have,” says Dr. Kerr.

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Rubbing your forehead

Stress taxes your brain, leaving a foggy mind and a lack of focus in its wake. Body language experts say that a stressed individual will touch and rub the centre of her forehead more often than a calm person. It’s believed that this movement is an attempt to massage away stress and boost brain clarity.

The fix: Dr. Kerr says that rubbing your forehead can be an early sign that a headache is coming on. Take deep breaths to help kick start your circulation and eliminate any cloudiness in your head. Go for a brief, brisk walk to get your blood flowing. You’ll feel more awake and less anxious.

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Secret Signs You’re Stressed: Sore jaw

Teeth grinding can be to blame for that ache in your jaw. Stressed individuals often clench their jaw or grind their teeth during sleep. You won’t know you’re experiencing it until you wake up with a sore jaw, chipped teeth or a nagging headache around the temples.

The fix: Dr. Kerr recommends a spell in the dentist’s chair. “Your dentist will see if you are grinding your back molars and wearing them down,” he says. If you’re guilty of nighttime teeth grinding, your dentist will give you a bite guard to wear while sleeping. Headaches and jaw pain can be eliminated easily.  “A bite guard is a terrific device. It keeps your jaw a couple of millimetres from closing all the way, so you can’t grind. If you have a lot of stress and are a teeth grinder, it’s a simple and effective treatment,” says Dr. Kerr.

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Nip stress in the bud

Suffering from these secret signs of stress? Dr. Kerr offers five simple tips to conquer stress before its silent symptoms sneak up on you.

1. Learn to say no. Overextending yourself sparks internal anxiety. Only say yes to tasks that you want to do and deserve your attention.

2. Fit exercise into your day. Walking, even for a few minutes a day, helps lower stress levels and keeps your heart healthy.

3. Don’t skimp on sleep. Your body becomes more vulnerable to stress when you sleep fewer than 7 hours per night. If you can’t sleep in, turn in an hour earlier each evening, or catch a 15-minute nap when you can.

4. Take a break from technology. A 2012 study by the University of California at Irvine discovered that being constantly plugged in to email feeds stress. To fully relax, switch off the computer and smartphone outside of office hours.

5. Take your vacation. Don’t bank weeks and weeks of holiday time. Taking scheduled time off lets your body and mind revitalize.