7 Surprising Signs You're Way Too Stressed
The physical and emotional toll of tension can zap your energy. One theory is that when you're under stress, your immune system erroneously responds the way it does to fight off infection, explains Monika Fleshner, PhD, an associate professor in the department of integrative physiology and director of the neuro-immunophysiology laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This can cause fatigue or fever, which force you to slow down and rest, just like you need to do when fighting off a cold or flu. Anxiety can also cause insomnia, which may lead to fatigue: When you're tense, you may wake up more easily and often have a hard time going back to sleep, explains Richard Schwab, MD, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania Sleep Disorders Center in Philadelphia.
Nix It: "Reduce mental stress by talking out your worries," Sadigh says. Unload to a trusted friend or set aside 20 minutes (no more) to write down your feelings and thoughts. Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes can also counteract fatigue by oxygenating the blood, promoting the release of feel-good brain chemicals, and distracting you from worry and anxiety, Sadigh says. Also, cut back on caffeine. It may boost alertness in the short term, but excessive amounts can exacerbate the physiological symptoms of anxiety. In fact, research at Duke University Medical Center found that consuming 500 milligrams of caffeine -- the equivalent of about four cups of coffee -- during the workday increases a person's blood pressure and reactivity to stress.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, January 2006.
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