Tag Archives: stress

12 Surprising Ways Anxiety Manifests Itself Physically (Part 2)

Anxiety and anxiety disorders like panic, social or generalized anxiety affect millions of Americans. Aside from causing nervousness, distress, mood changes and worry, anxiety can also cause physical symptoms that may mimic many physical health conditions. Even those of us who don’t have underlying anxiety disorders may still be dealing with a little too much anxiety or have the occasional panic attack. In our last post, we looked at how anxiety can cause palpitations, excess sweating, urination problems, chest pains, tachycardia and stomach problems. Let’s take a look at the next few physical symptoms it can cause:

  1. Shortness of breath can be caused by many different health conditions such as congestive heart failure or asthma, but sometimes severe anxiety can cause shortness of breath. This usually occurs when the person is not aware they have been breathing irregularly for some time because they are in a state of stress or anxiety. Maybe they are taking shallow breaths or breathing from their chest instead of deeper from the abdomen. This would lead to a feeling of not taking in enough air, which in turn may cause even more anxiety, creating a loop. If you have evaluated and medical causes of breath shortness have been ruled out, talk to your doctor about better managing your anxiety today.
  2. Lethargy or fatigue – Many things can cause fatigue such as medications, health problems, lifestyle habits or stress and anxiety. If your system is in a perpetual state of anxiety or stress, your cortisol levels are all out of whack. The body’s natural response to this roller coaster is to feel exhausted and worn out. If you are struggling with fatigue, it is best to get it checked out so you can rule out any potentially serious causes, or get some help if your anxiety is causing you to be too tired.
  3. Trembling or twitching – Severe anxiety or panic can cause bodily trembling or shaking, due to soaring adrenaline levels. This can be very startling symptom to experience if the person is not used to it, and may trigger even more anxiety. Anxiety-associated trembling is often referred to as essential trembling. There are medical causes for trembling as well such as multiple sclerosis, so it is important to mention any trembling or shaking to a doctor.
  4. Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) – We have all experienced excess sweating brought on by a stressful event such as public speaking at some point in time, so most people are aware stress and anxiety can make one sweat profusely. If you are noticing that you are often sweating more than normal, it may be time to check in with a doc.
  5. Tension-based headaches or muscle aches – If you’ve been stressed or overly worried for some time, it can start affecting the muscles in your upper body. You may feel an aching or strained neck, tense shoulders or jaw, or perhaps a persistent tension headache. That is often because when a person is stressed, they hold their body in a more uptight manner, often with the shoulders up farther toward the neck than a non-stressed person would. They may clench their jaw unknowingly, which can lead to jaw and head pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should check in the with a doc to see if they may be anxiety-rooted or due to another condition.
  6. Difficulty swallowing – While certain conditions such as a hiatal hernia can cause a lump in the throat, anxiety can also at least give the illusion of one. The term Globus sensation refers to the anxiety-driven sensation of having an obstruction in the throat when there is none. It can feel very physical, even causing some people to be stomach sick. One example could be if a person sees a stray hair near their food and starts worrying they’ve swallowed a hair, getting the feeling that there is one stuck in their throat. Even though they did not swallow the hair, it can feel very much like they did.

There you have our 12 physical signs of anxiety! Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you drop back again soon!




12 Surprising Ways Anxiety Manifests Itself Physically (Part 1)

Anxiety can be tricky, perhaps even the chameleon of mental health issues. It can manifest itself mentally, emotionally and physically, often mimicking symptoms of physical health conditions and confusing everyone in its wake. Most everyone will have little surges of anxiety from time to time, but some people battle excess anxiety daily, which can be tiring and perplexing. Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million American adults, and this is a modest estimate. Even those who don’t have underlying anxiety disorders may still have a little too much anxiety or have the occasional panic attack. Let’s take a look at the first 6 of our 12 physical signs that you could be dealing with too much anxiety:

  1. Heart palpitations – Many people don’t realize that anxiety can actually affect how the heart beats. If you feel flutters, the sensation of ‘skipped beats’ or a sensation of thumping, anxiety could be the culprit. More often than not, palpitations are nothing to worry about. However, in some cases, these feelings can be symptoms of arrhythmias (disorders that cause potentially dangerous irregular heartbeats), so it is important to talk to a doctor if you are getting palpitations.
  2. Chest painUp to 40% of those suffering a panic attack will experience some kind of chest pain. It can take the form of quick shooting or darting pains, slow burning aches or a crushing feeling. It is important that anyone experiencing chest pain is medically evaluated to rule out any underlying or emergency heart problems. More often than not, people who wind up in the ER for chest pains are not having a heart attack. There are many non-cardiac conditions can cause chest pain, but it is important to check it out nonetheless.
  3. Raised heart rate (tachycardia) – When you are afraid, anxious, or stressed out, the brain sends out the ‘fight or flight’ signal to the heart to speed up in anticipation of potential danger. If you notice your heart racing routinely, you should check in with the doc to make sure you don’t have any other health issues, or to discuss potential treatments for anxiety.
  4. Dry mouth – Anxiety can reduce the amount of saliva produced by your salivary glands, which leads to the feeling of a dry or parched mouth. Dry mouth can also be caused by antidepressants or other medications, as well as certain conditions (such as Sjogren’s syndrome).
  5. Polyuria (frequent urination) – If you are chronically or overly stressed, you may find an increased urge to urinate. Like many of the symptoms on this list, polyuria can also be a sign of more serious health conditions such as diabetes, but a surplus of anxiety can certainly cause you to keep running to the washroom.
  6. Gastrointestinal problems – sometimes people who have extra anxiety struggle with diarrhea, constipation, or a touchy stomach. Their symptoms can be similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, or a person may have both anxiety and IBS, as the stomach and brain are closely linked.

That concludes Part 1 of our look at how anxiety can cause physical symptoms, but stay tuned next for a look at the next few! Thanks for visiting DocChat, remember, our excellent board-certified doctors are standing by 24/7/365 for any health-related questions you may have.


Make 2017 Your Happiest, Healthiest Year Yet (Part 2)

As the next year quickly approaches many of us get excited about making resolutions to make the New Year the healthiest and happiest one, but often end up disappointed that these plans didn’t quite pan out. Sometimes that is because we don’t stop to think about just how important these changes can be and how they often act as dominoes to the next important change. In order to live an overall happy and healthy life, many things need to be balanced such as sleep, diet, fitness, stress level and mental health. Last time we looked at how to better mental well-being, nutrition and fitness, next up are:

Score Great Sleeps

Adequate sleep is a pillar of good health. Are you getting at least 6 hours a night? The goal is between 6-9 hours of sleep every night, getting less or more than that could lead to chronic lethargy or worse. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH), not getting enough sleep over the long-term can contribute to mental and physical health problems, quality of life as well as safety. Do you want to know if your sleeping habits are on target? Take our quiz.

Rely on Relaxation

Our world is a stressful one. Between over-working, technology over-use and hefty financial demands, it is easy to find one’s self chronically stressed. When you are in a state of near-constant stress, your cortisol and adrenaline levels are out of whack (thanks to our innate fight-or-flight response to potential threats). This is a bigger problem than you may think. Chronic stress can exacerbation nearly every existing health problem. Therefor, it is of utmost importance that you work to lower your stress level if it is elevated. How? There are many things you can do between taking up meditation, getting massages, exercising regularly or talking to a therapist. Check out these 10 helpful tactics in our Stress Busters post.

Happify Your Heart

Aside from lowering your stress, it is also important to set aside time in your daily life to do things you love and are passionate about. Whether that means a daily drawing or painting session, some routine woodworking, or cuddles with your pet or significant other, make sure you allot yourself time for what makes you smile. All too often we get stuck on autopilot running errands, driving the kids around, doing housework, and before you know it another day is done. It is so important to shake that routine up with things that make you truly happy. This will aid in your sleep, stress level and mental health, greatly improving your quality of life.

So, make 2017 the Year of You and get your life back in balance by working on each of these areas. Thanks for visiting DocChat, we wish you all the happiness 2017 can bring!


11 Signs That You’re More Stressed Than You Think (Part 2)

Unrestrained stress can cause a multitude of unpleasant physiological symptoms and can exacerbate nearly all health problems, both mental and physical. Is your stress level creeping higher than you realize? In our last post, we looked at such signs as negative thought loops, being your own worst enemy, being out-of-control of your emotions, unexplained fatigue and eating too much or not enough. Next up are:

  1. Your brain is a puddle of goo – If you’re finding it hard to concentrate on tasks at hand, repeating yourself unknowingly, procrastinating or forgetting every little thing, chances are you’re on stress-mode autopilot and don’t even know it. Our brains can’t function optimally when our cortisol levels are constantly on the rise.
  2. Your sleep schedule is thrown off – Most people who are chronically stressed have sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, going to bed way too late or waking up much later than you should be, you need to check in with yourself. Sleep is one of the cornerstones to good health. So, if you’re not sleeping well, figure out what’s bothering you and try to get back on track.
  3. You’re never “in the mood” – Has your libido taken a nose dive recently? If you have too much stress in your life it often impedes sexual function. When the body is in a state of hyperawareness, your cortisol levels are soaring which can seriously snuff out any desire for romance.
  4. Your head hurts – Are you getting more unexplained headaches than usual, perhaps of the tension variety? Chances are that unchecked stress is to blame!
  5. Your heart is misbehaving – Stress and anxiety can actually cause your heart to palpitate (the feeling of ‘skipped beats’, as well as race too fast (tachycardia). Have you been aware of your heartbeat lately? Does it feel like its not beating as it should? You may be anxious or stressed. It is important to let your doctor know so he or she can rule out more serious issues such as arrhythmias, but more often than not these symptoms are caused by stress.

Other symptoms of stress include stomach discomfort, aches and pains, itching or frequent colds. If you’ve been experiencing many of these symptoms, it is time for a stress tune up. Unchecked chronic stress can be a killer. It is linked to (or known to worsen) such serious conditions as depression, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, asthma and more. If you’re constantly riding a stress wave, you’re playing with fire. Check out our stress busting tips to help you lower your levels, or if you can’t seem to manage your stress, talk to your doctor about a referral to a mental health professional soon. Thanks for visiting DocChat!



8 Tips to Minimize Holiday-Related Stress


The holidays can be the best time of year, but they can also be the most stressful at times as well. Let’s take a look at a few holiday stress-reducing tips for a happier, healthier time:

  1. Don’t overreach when it comes to presents – the holidays are about so much more than just material things. Many people stress themselves out by going way over their holiday gift budget. We’re all guilty of it sometimes, but a little less can still show someone how much you care.
  2. Keep a handle on the partying – the holidays are a time for celebration, but too many hard party nights can take away from relaxing and being present in the moment with your loved ones. If you’re hung over, you won’t enjoy the holidays as much as if you were feeling better.
  3. Try to avoid company clashes – when the family is over or you’re visiting your extended family, veer away from controversial subjects that may provoke a family brawl. Having company can sometimes be frustrating but don’t let the stress get the best of you. It may help to excuse yourself from your guests and take a couple deep breaths as needed.
  4. Think ahead – Last minute shopping can be very stressful because the stores are crazy and the shelves are nearly bear. Try to get your shopping and wrapping done well ahead of schedule so you’re not cursing yourself trying to get everything done last minute!
  5. Knock off some of your cooking and baking well ahead of time. Cookies keep really well in the freezer, so why not get your baking and some cooking ready a couple weeks before everyone starts showing up?
  6. Be kid-ready – Have some kids Christmas activities ready so when they get off school, there will still be some structure to give you time to do what you have to around the house.
  7. Don’t sweat the little hiccups – they are bound to happen! Some of us are holiday perfectionists. If more people show up to your event than anticipated, or the Christmas lights blow or a flight gets delayed, try to stay calm and make the most of what you have for the holidays.
  8. Still take “you time” between all the company – It can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind busy of the holidays, but you will enjoy them much more if you take time out to do things that keep you calm and happy such as a nice long bath, painting or walks.

The most important thing is not to get distracted from what the holidays are truly about. Be sure to make time for those special quiet moments for your family to celebrate the things that really matter, all the rest is just tinsel! Thanks for visiting DocChat!

Don’t Let Stress Commandeer Your Life

It is almost impossible to find one consistent definition of stress, but it is essentially defined as “a state of mental (and physiological) tension, anxiety or worry caused by problems in your life.”

Fight or Flight

Our bodies are preprogrammed to respond to the stress of impending threats such as predators, but in our modern-day sky-scraper jungles we have different stressors than those of our stone-age predecessors. Many people nowadays are chronically stressed because they are workaholics, caretakers for sick family or chronically ill themselves, or struggling with heavy debt. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands (adjacent to the kidneys) release a cocktail of hormones including adrenaline and more abundantly, cortisol. Cortisol has been coined the “stress hormone” because of its prominent role in this fight or flight response. 

A Closer Look at Cortisol

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone which is released upon waking, during rigorous exercise or during acutely stressful events. While cortisol is important for its role in warning the body of danger, it has other responsibilities as well. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Dina Aronson says, “Cortisol also plays an important role in human nutrition. It regulates energy by selecting the right type and amount of substrate (carbohydrate, fat, or protein) the body needs to meet the physiological demands placed on it.” However, cortisol is to blame for negative effects on the body as well, especially when it is over-released due to chronic stress.

Effects of Too Much Cortisol

According to Aronson, some of the ill-effects caused by chronically elevated cortisol levels include:

  1. Gastrointestinal effects: Tummy health is closely connected to the immune system, and when the immune system is interrupted by roller-coaster cortisol levels, stomach trouble such as IBS often ensues.
  2. Adrenal fatigue: After years of overuse, the adrenal glands eventually tire, releasing much less of adrenaline and cortisol than the body has become accustomed to, resulting in a complete crash of the system – fatigue, the blues, a loss of vigor.
  3. Immune system conditions: Even though cortisol helps temporarily reduce inflammation, it can actually have the reverse effect over time, suppressing the immune system which can lead to conditions rife with systemic inflammation, like Lupus. 
  4. Cardiovascular disease: Cortisol increases blood pressure in an attempt to re-oxygenate the blood. Chronic over-stimulation of the adrenal glands also means chronically elevated blood pressure, which as we know, leads to serious heart problems.
  5. Weight gain and obesity: Cortisol increases blood glucose levels and suppress insulin, which is a bad combination if happening too frequently. It can lead to starving cells sending too many hunger signals to the brain.
  6. Fertility and sexual problems: Wellness Guru Dr. Lissa Rankin calls Cortisol the “anti-viagra”, as it can completely obliterate sex drive and sexual function in excess. 

The Importance of Lowering Chronic Stress Levels

After taking a look at the many ill-effects and risks of long term stress and cortisol elevation, it goes without saying we should all be cognizant of our stress and work to lower it. I’m sure you have heard that Type A people are more likely to have issues because of their consistently higher stress levels; according to AboutHealth “High blood pressure is common among ‘Type A’ personalities, and has been documented by research to be as much as 84% more of a risk among those with Type A characteristics.” So if you are a Type A person, or just someone who can’t seem to get out of firing range of stress, it may be time to make a change for the sake of your health and future.

Treatment and Stress Management Techniques

Due to the impacts of chronic stress on the heart, the American Heart Association has developed a comprehensive and thorough stress management plan. Some of the highlights from this plan include:

  • Positive Self-Talk: Our perspective can change how we view and deal with a stressful situation, if we are stuck in a negative self-talk loop things may turn out worse – a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity – so framing things more positively can help you cope.
  • Remove yourself from stressful situations for a break to regroup before handling it; this can help clear your head to better deal with acute stress.
  • Count to 10 or take 3 or 4 deep breaths before responding in a high stress situation like an interview or argument.
  • Engage in pleasurable activities to help redirect your feelings. Try painting, coffee with a friend, a nature walk or cuddle with a spouse when you start to feel anxiety rising.
  • Relaxation is an essential strategy to master when it comes to chronic stress. Try meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, or a guided imagery break.

If you find that some of these facts and figures are hitting close to home, do yourself a favor and find a stress management plan that best suits your life and needs. Your body will thank you!

5 Habits That Are Deteriorating Your Health

bad habits

It is never too late to correct bad habits. Our lifestyles are a sum total of our everyday small habits. Learn to recognize these bad habits and work on getting rid of them. These five unhealthiest habits are affecting you negatively:

1. Eating too much fast food

Fast food might seem satisfying in the moment when you are too rushed or exhausted to cook food at home. Grabbing a quick bite to eat is a very convenient option. But in the long run, high consumption of fast food will lead to serious health issues, such as heart problems, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, to name a few. The high fat and sodium content in fast food are the reason for the increased rates of obesity in the developed world. Kick this habit as soon as possible, your future self will thank you.

2. Stressing out about little things

Constant worrying about little things will turn you into a perpetual worry machine. It will cause your anxiety levels to rise, as a torrent of stress hormones floods the body. Stress will affect your immune system and vital organs. Try meditation and therapy if you find yourself worrying frequently.

3. Skipping breakfast

Skipping the morning meal will cause your energy levels to plummet during the day. You will feel less productive and fatigued as the day goes by. You will create a cycle of starve-overindulge in your eating pattern. The healthiest thing for your body is to have a low fat, fiber rich breakfast every day.

4. Drinking too much alcohol

If you tend to overindulge in alcohol frequently you can be causing harm to your body. Alcohol will increase your risk of liver cancer, high blood pressure, and depression. The physical and mental toll of alcoholism is heavy and must be avoided, drinking in moderation is the key. If moderation is not possible than try curbing the habit altogether.

5. Smoking

This is the worst habit to have. Smoking is basically breathing in toxic, cancer-causing chemicals into your lungs. Smokers are at an increased risk for lung cancer, heart diseases and other cancers. Almost 80% to 90% of lung cancer cases can be traced back to smoking. A smoker will face heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Quitting can reverse the damage or at least significantly lower the chances of suffering.

If you are in the habit of doing any of these activities, it is best to quit now and take a step towards wellness and happy living. Replace these bad habits with good ones and you will feel a marked improvement in health and fitness.