THE RIPPLE EFFECTS OF STRESS

(Shape) It impacts virtually every area of the body. Here's what stress does to you:

Your ears become super sensitive
Stress-related exhaustion can cause sounds to bother you a lot more than normal, the journal PLOS Ones reports. Even a normal conversation can start to grate on your nerves. Wear noise cancelling headphones tuned to something soothing, like nature sounds. If it becomes an ongoing issues, see your doctor.

Your joints ache
It's unclear whether being stressed can hurt your joints, but it can make you feel pain. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that 40 percent of chronically stressed women experienced psychosomatic muscle and joint aches. The mindfulness app Headspace has a pain-management series that may help you ease both the stress and pain.

Your heart hurts
People with stressful jobs are about 50 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a heart-rhythm disorder that can cause fatigue and contribute to stroke, according to a Swedish study. Chronic stress is associated with inflammation and high blood pressure, two risk factors for heart issues. If work stress is out of your control, practice some daily self-care to compensate. People who report sleeping well and walking 10,500 steps a day are less affected by job tension, research shows.

Your stomach freaks out
Anxiety can be as bad for your digestive system as bingeing on junk food. So say researchers in the journal Scientific Reports, who found that stressed-out animals had gut bacteria that looked like they'd been eating a high-fat diet. Protect yourself with probiotics. Research has shown that eating foods that contain good bugs, like yogurt, can help prevent stressful habits, such as rumination.

You break out
"Stress hormones and other substances can lead to acne," says Yoram Harth, M.D., cofounder of MDacne, an app that sells treatment products. Do yoga to chill out and boost your glow.

Your memory takes a hit
Chronic stress weakens synapses in the brain, reducing its ability to form memories, the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory reports. But the researchers found that stressed animals that exercised had the same synapse function as those that were stress free.

You gain weight
Several studies have linked stress to a larger waist and a higher BMI. Stress hormones trigger your body to store more fat, and tension can make you eat more too. Try to avoid sugary, fatty foods as much as you can during tense times, and go for a walk or hit the gym instead. Working out helps relieve stress and bumps up your metabolism.

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