10 way your body is telling you to relax

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The Signs of Stress

By DR. KAREN LATIMER

Summer is the season for relaxation, and right about now, we should all be feeling pretty good. The lack of kids' schedules, the ease of sliding on flip flops and the extra vitamin D should all add up to ZEN.

However, it is right about now -- with August looming -- that the stress starts to sneak back up on me. Thoughts of carpools, back to school shopping and homework help are finding ways to take up space in my brain. I am trying to push them away with heavy doses of summer fun and chardonnay, but they can rear their ugly heads in other ways. Sometimes, even when you think you are perfectly chill, anxiety and stress can cause physical symptoms.

So, while I hope you are experiencing the world through rosy colored RayBans right now, if you have any of the following symptoms, you may want to sit back and take stock of your emotional well being.

1. Headache — If you have frequent headaches you can't blame on a late nights or dehydration, consider whether stress is the cause.

2. Jaw pain — Stress causes people to clench the muscles of the face, which can result in muscle and joint irritation and inflammation. I tend to do this when I get aggravated with my kids, but you may not even realize it is happening. Lots of people grind their teeth or tighten their jaw while they are sleeping in response to anxiety.

3. Stomach pain — Gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea and constipation all can be closely correlated with your level of stress. Stress can make you binge eat and drink more heavily, which can also cause stomach pain. Before overdosing on Pepto, try relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation, and increase your water and fiber intake.

4. Fatigue — Exhaustion is a common by-product of stress. Your body is in a constant state of preparedness to fight. Stress is the 2015 evolutionary equivalent of having to stare down a lion. This takes a toll over time, so that despite feeling like you are getting adequate rest, you are still chronically tired.

5. Trouble sleeping — Despite the fatigue, you may be suffering from insomnia. The process of falling asleep and staying asleep is physiologically complicated and requires your brain to essentially shut down. When you are lying in bed, going over all your worries, and then going over them again, your brain cannot achieve the relaxed state it needs to go into sleep mode. Quick tip: Leave a paper and pen at your bedside, and when you are thinking of everything you have to do the next day, jot down a list. This will take some of the pressure off.

6. Back pain — Like jaw clenching, we have a tendency to hold our muscles, especially those in our back tight when we are feeling life's pressures. This can manifest as either acute or chronic back pain, which can be debilitating. Stretching and core strengthening can help, but sometimes, the mere realization we are carrying our stress in our back can work wonders.

7. Frequent colds — A diminished immune system can often be a sign you are under too much stress. Plus, getting sick all the time will just give you more to worry about, perpetuating the cycle.

8. Eye twitching — You know that annoying feeling your eyelid is moving on its own, and no one else can see it, but it is all you can think about. It is caused by stress. It will eventually go away, but when it happens, listen to what your body is telling you and relax.

9. Lack of patience — When you are feeling irritable and annoyed by the world, chances are you are responding not to bad kids, an unsympathetic spouse or a demanding boss, as much as you are responding to your own stress. This can be damaging to your relationships, and while it is often hard to look in the mirror, it is important you take stock of how much stress is affecting you.

10. Low libido — With all the other symptoms listed above, who can even think about sex? But, sex is a natural relaxant, especially when done correctly, so even if you aren't in the mood, you may want to go for it anyway.

Summer is a great time to reflect and focus on your well-being and happiness. Before September, will all its changes and stressors, take some time to acknowledge those things which are adding pressure to your life. You may not be able to get rid of them (unless you can afford boarding school,) but naming them will help you better manage your stress and prepare for a healthier autumn.
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