Feeling Unwell? It Might Not Be What You Think


Are you getting a fever? Did you eat something funny? Or are your symptoms the result of something else entirely? It’s often hard to tell when stress is why you feel unwell, but it happens to more people than you’d think.

Sometimes it’s obvious, such as dizziness before a first date or nausea when you receive bad news, but at other times, stress can be the reason you suddenly feel under the weather.

We’ve already discussed how being under pressure can lead to physical discomfort—getting the chills, sweating, and stomach knots—but sometimes it can cause more serious symptoms such as dizziness, hyperventilating, and even fainting. I’ll discuss why this happens in today’s article and show you what to do when stress starts to make you feel unwell.

Stress and Feeling Sick: Symptoms and Causes

Stress can play havoc with your emotions, triggering symptoms of genuine sickness. A good example is when you are “shaken up” from a shock; when you feel emotionally unsteady, it’s easy to feel physically dizzy, too.

But what other symptoms can arise when you are under pressure?

Significant stress causes your body to enter a state of activation known as fight or flight. As your nervous system kicks into survival mode, your breathing quickens, and the oxygen levels rise in your blood. The more oxygen is pumped to your muscles and organs, the less there is for your brain. This can lead to feelings of dizziness and even loss of consciousness.

The experience of hyperventilation, dizziness, and fainting are unpleasant enough as it is. On top of this, they can frequently add to your agitation and cause you to worry about your health and feel unwell.

How It Causes Nausea

Apart from the symptoms I’ve already considered, nausea is another common side effect of stress. You will know what I mean if you have ever felt like you’re on a rollercoaster during a high-stakes event!

Scientists believe that stress and nausea are linked to the hormones that your body releases in its activated state. Cortisol is rapidly released when you enter fight or flight mode, and it triggers a whole range of symptoms:

  • Muscle tension, including more pressure on your stomach and intestines
  • A racing heart
  • Heightened blood pressure, and
  • Redirection of your blood away from the digestive system.

Combined, these can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, and even diarrhea. Even though these symptoms are brought about by stress, they can be a highly upsetting sign that you may need to address whatever is causing you pressure. That’s why I created the Suddenly Feeling Ill Stress Coaching Card and have gathered the following tips.

3 Helpful Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation exercises can be very useful when stress is causing you illness-like symptoms. These techniques may facilitate stress release and help you restore some peace in your mind and body.

1. Balancing Breathing

I’ve introduced a few breathing exercises in other Stress Coaching Cards, but this one is especially good for enhancing brain activity and reintroducing calm into your body. It is an ancient breath technique from India called Pranayama. It can help cleanse your lungs, strengthen your energy flows, and feel more invigorated afterwards.

In this exercise, you will aim to balance your breathing between your nostrils:

  1. Sitting comfortably, take a few normal breaths, and relax your shoulders.
  2. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril at a natural pace.
  3. Repeat it five times, then open it up again.
  4. Close your left nostril with your right index finger and repeat the breathing exercise using your right nostril.
  5. Use normal breaths throughout the exercise without trying to force anything.
  6. Once you’ve done both sides, you can try alternating between your nostrils. Close the right nostril and inhale once through the left, then exhale on the other side. Close the left and inhale through the right, and you have completed one round.
  7. Continue for three to five rounds, and you will probably find that this mindfulness exercise has taken your mind off your worries.

2. Soap Bubble Visualization

This second helpful exercise is perfect for when you find a quiet moment to imagine yourself somewhere relaxing. Like most visualization exercises, this is easier and more powerful the more you practice it.

  1. Lie or sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Inhale and exhale quietly and naturally a few times and let your tension fall away.
  2. Now imagine a bubble forming around you and lifting you off the ground. Feel yourself float gently up in the air and away.
  3. You are in charge of your bubble, so where do you want to go? Take yourself out of the room to a pleasant place such as a garden, beach, or anywhere you feel peaceful.
  4. Land your bubble in the place that most appeals to you. You can stay here for as long as you like, so feel free to immerse yourself in the scenery and make it as realistic as you can. What can you see, hear, and feel?
  5. Step back into your bubble and float home once you’re finished. You should feel calmer, re-energized, and much better at this point!

3. Hypnotize Yourself!

This self-hypnosis exercise takes no more than ten minutes and helps you relax whenever you feel tense. It’s called the Five-Finger exercise and has four steps that you should memorize in advance.

  1. Tired: Touch your thumb and index finger together and recall a time when you felt pleasantly tired, e.g., after a fun workout.
  2. Love: Tough your thumb and middle finger together. This time, recall an experience where you felt loved, such as receiving a hug from a loved one, an intimate lovemaking session with your beloved, or similar.
  3. Admired: Touch your thumb and ring finger together and recall a time when someone gave you a meaningful compliment. Accept it and revel in it—let yourself feel good!
  4. Beauty: Finally, touch your little finger and thumb together. Now imagine a beautiful place where you have felt happy and let yourself remain there for a while.

Nicolien Dellensen

Nicolien Dellensen, Senior Consultant and behavioral specialist and creator and owner of the ’Sphere of Influence 360º’ a comprehensive concept and (360) online tool about interactive dynamics.

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