Wellbeing

Four Ways Your Body Tells You When Something’s Not Quite Right

Your body is pretty amazing. All day long, without a lot of conscious effort on your part, it operates numerous systems to keep you alive and healthy – and if it needs to, it will let you know if things aren’t right. Taking the time to listen to the signals your body is sending you can help you take control of your health and live your #bestlife.

#1 Pain

How often do you dismiss pain, trying to silence it with a painkiller without thinking about why it’s occurred?

Pain is a bodily system with a two-fold purpose: alert you to a potential problem and protect you from further harm. Whether or not you think you know the reason you’re in pain, the sensation is an important signal that something’s not right in your body and might need attention.

Although it seems like we feel pain as a sensation in a specific part of the body, it’s actually your brain that registers pain. Nerve endings called nociceptors send information about temperature, pressure and damage up the spinal cord and into the brain, where the hypothalamus decodes what’s wrong and works with different parts of your brain to decide what your response should be.

If you’ve got a paper cut, the response might be minimal (though it’s a good opportunity to turn the dramatics up to maximum if you’re so inclined). A much worse pain that’s not going away, on the other hand, should be cause for action.

Pain isn’t normal, so whether you’ve got a headache, a sore back or a pain in your stomach, take some time to think about why you’re feeling it. If you’ve been in pain for more than a couple of days, it’s time to see a health professional about it.

#2 Feeling stressed

Stress isn’t always bad for you: it can improve your performance under pressure and motivate you to get things done. Stress becomes a problem when it’s ongoing and starting to affect your life beyond the particular stressful situation.

In a world where being stressed can seem the norm, it’s important to remember that stress is a sign that something in your life is off kilter and starting to cause you more than the regular amount of concern. Whether your stress is related to work, finances, a relationship or something else, ignoring this sign and ploughing on in a stressful situation can wear on your mind and body.

When you’re stressed, your body enters ‘fight or flight’ mode, essentially preparing you to escape the situation you’re in. Adrenalin and cortisol course through your body, causing your heart rate, breathing and metabolism to speed up.

Ongoing stress can affect you mentally and physically and different people experience stress in different ways. Among many symptoms, stress might make you have:

  • trouble thinking clearly
  • memory problems
  • a shortened attention span
  • a sense of isolation
  • moodiness
  • aches and pains
  • dizziness
  • dreams or nightmares
  • or nausea.

Left untreated, stress can lead to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and physical problems like high blood pressure and chronic fatigue.

If you’re not sure if your stress is a problem, talk to your GP about how you’re feeling or use a tool like the Health Direct symptom checker to get a better understanding of how stress is impacting your life. This Way Up has more information about stress and a free Coping With Stress online course.

#3 Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

We all have the occasional night when getting to sleep takes a long time or days that feel extra drowsy. But if you’re having ongoing difficulty sleeping, or you find yourself needing to sleep much more than usual, it’s time to pay attention to this cue from your body.

It’s hard to overstate how important good quality sleep is for our bodies. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of accidents, reduced work efficiency, poorer memory and concentration, so it’s important for your overall wellbeing that you sort sleep issues out.

Trouble sleeping could be a sign of a sleep disorder, poor sleep habits, or could be a symptom of a mental or physical illness. If you’re not sure what might be causing your sleep woes, talk to your GP about what’s going on.

#4 Digestion difficulties

Let’s face it; talking about digestion can be a bit uncomfortable. Symptoms like discomfort after eating, excessive gas, ongoing diarrhoea or constipation don’t exactly make for typical dinner party conversation, but if your digestive system is giving you grief, it’s important to not just sit on it (pun intended).

Your digestive system starts at your mouth and includes your oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and bowel. It’s responsible for breaking down the food you eat into nutrients that your body uses for energy, growth and repair, and eliminating waste.

Eating well and then properly digesting food is a major factor in being healthy and happy, so when your digestive system is telling you something’s not right, it’s a good idea to listen. Allergies or intolerances, inflammation, infection and stress are some of the causes of digestive issues, but it’s best to see your GP or a dietitian to get some clear ideas about what’s going on when you eat.

Tips with thanks to Queensland Health.