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Stress may be an emotional reaction to the challenges we face in our daily lives, but it can have a surprisingly significant effect on our physical health, too. If ever you needed a reason to bring a little more Zen into your life, let these side effects of stress be it.

1. Fatigue – Stress doesn’t just make you tired, it makes you absolutely, shatteringly exhausted – and that’s not just because it’s keeping you up at night. The hormone cortisol helps you deal with stress by giving you extra energy, more oxygen and boosting your heart rate, but if you’re stressed too often, your body will limit the amount of cortisol it produces. Less cortisol means less energy.

2. Low libido – Don’t feel like getting frisky? It could be down to stress. Frequent and long-lasting stress inhibits sex hormones, meaning your sex drive will likely take a sharp dive, and when you do get down to business, you won’t enjoy it as much as if you were relaxed.

3. Digestive issues – Yes, stress can leave you constipated. Chronic stress messes with your thyroid gland, which is responsible for regulating metabolism, meaning you’re less effective at digesting your food and your bowel habits will be affected.

4. Forgetfulness – When you’re over 60, it’s not exactly unheard of to experience a little bit of memory loss, but noticing it more often than normal could be indicative of traumatic stress. If you’ve been coping with a death or scarring experience, the part of your brain responsible for memory (the hippocampus) could take a hit – or even shrink, in some cases – making you more forgetful.

5. Weight gain – Another unwanted side effect of stress is a few extra kilos. Studies have shown than dieters with effective stress management techniques lose more weight than those without them. Plus, as we pointed out in item number three, stress prevents normal metabolism, making it harder to process fat and sugar.

6. Hair loss – As if making you gain weight wasn’t enough, stress just has to take it one step further and mess with your luscious locks, too! A spike in stress can cause you to shed more hair than usual, even up to six months after the stressful event.

If these side-effects sound a little too familiar, it’s time to act before stress takes over completely. Click here to read our expert tips for reducing stress, or if the problem is already feeling overwhelming, book an appointment with your GP.

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