Increased blinking is telltale evidence that we are feeling the pressure, either emotionally or physically. When in a relaxed state, the average blink rate is around 15-30 times a minute but under stress this can increase to up to 70 times a minute. The response is known as the Nixon Effect after American president Richard Nixon, whose blinking escalated to suspicious levels when under pressure during the Watergate scandal.
Nocturnal teeth grinding is thought to be a way of relieving tension. Clenching or grinding teeth is a recognised response to anxiety, however, most 'grinders' are unaware they have this symptom as the condition usually flares-up when they are fast asleep. But it's important to wake-up to signs such as chipped teeth, tooth sensitivity, sore jaw muscles and earache because prolonged exposure to grinding can result in headaches and jaw disorders.
Stress sets off a chain reaction in our physiology and as a result plays havoc with the immune system. On the outside, our hair and skin is one of the first places to show the strain - so it's no wonder dandruff is the most common condition affecting the scalp. Research suggests weakened immunity triggers the bacteria which cause dandruff to grow out of control, swell and irritate the top of the head. As the cells die they break down to produce the pesky white flakes which cause a snow storm on our shoulders.
When the going gets tough, our instinctive 'fight or flight' response kicks in. For basic survival purposes, blood flow is diverted away from less important areas and re-routed to essential muscles in case we need to scarper sharpish. This lack of fluid causes dryness of the mouth. Stress also interferes with our breathing - we take shorter, shallow breaths which leads to stinky breath. It can even make it harder to swallow because our throat muscles go into spasm as a side-effect of the strain on our system
POOR SEX DRIVE
Stress can sabotage your libido in more ways than one. When you're stressed to the max, the body's reaction is to put survival ahead of pleasure. This affects the hypothalamus gland and the body's production of estrogens and testosterone which give us sexual desire. Women may find it hard to achieve orgasm and men can experience temporary impotence as the chemicals released when stressed reduce blood flow to the *****.
Emotional stress can cause chaos with our skin as pressure prompts the release of histamines into the bloodstream. Our skin then reacts against this enzyme which results in itchiness and hives. Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema are also thought to worsen when tense. Studies of psychological stress show anxiety can decrease the wound-healing capacity of the immune system by up to 40%, which doubles the effect of stress on acne.
Perspiration doesn't only increase but is also smellier when we're under emotional pressure. The sympathetic nervous system kicks into action when the body is stressed which forces our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to rocket. Our apocrine glands (responsible for smelly sweat as opposed to odourless eccrine gland sweat) also work overtime and secrete more fatty fluid into the tubule of the gland. When we're wound up, the tubule wall contracts and pushes sweat to the surface of the skin. It's the bacteria waiting to break down the apocrine sweat which causes body odour..
One of the first places we run to when we come under increased pressure is the toilet. Stress tampers with our biochemistry and sends a surge of hormones including adrenaline racing through our body. Our digestive and immune system temporarily shut down because these stress hormones hinder the release of the stomach acid we need to break down food. However, get ready to say hello to diarrhoea as, simultaneously, the same hormones stimulate the colon so its contents are fast-tracked through the gut.
Did you know humming and whistling could be your body's natural way of soothing a stressful situation? It might seem like an innocuous habit to subconsciously slip in to when you are stressed, but humming stimulates the right side of the brain (the part used for abstract and creative thoughts) and may help you to calm down. Humming is even one of the preferred stress-busters for babies who want to calm themselves.
Nail biting, nose picking, hair twisting are common habits if you're nervous. It's suggested that having something in our mouths reminds us of the calming, safe feeling of ****ing milk as a baby. On the face of it, such anxious habits might look unpleasant to onlookers, but these manners may trigger calming sensors in the nervous system to give an immediate rush of relief.