Stress can cause serious effects on a person’s physical as well as mental health. The current pandemic situation is taking not only an emotional toll, but people might also be experiencing physical symptoms.

If you have lately experienced symptoms like frequent headaches, skin problems including acne, psoriasis, eczema, and hair loss, menstrual problem, hypertension, and gastrointestinal issues like gastritis, GERD, or ulcerative colitis, you can now blame the COVID-19 pandemic, says The Conversation.

Human beings naturally have a biological stress response system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which has evolved millions of years ago to help our vertebrate ancestors quickly mobilize energy to confront situations like predator attacks or life-or-death threats. It has been crucial to survival in early human beings.

The current pandemic situation has been going on for a few months now and clearly, there is no solution yet in the vicinity. This could be causing chronic stress that signals out the HPA axis into overdrive and the effects are felt throughout the body. This explains all the strange physical symptoms people have been experiencing for the past few months.

While a predator attack is time-bound, the pandemic situation has been going on for weeks. And issues like social isolation, financial or job insecurities could be making things worse. The HPA axis releases stress hormones while encountering a threat in the environment. But since most people might be perceiving the environment as threatening all the time, during this pandemic, the HPA axis ends up releasing the chemicals all the time.

Here’s how each of your symptoms could be related to chronic stress:

Headaches

It is likely that one might suffer from headaches while they are stressed. Stress is one of the major triggers of tension-type headaches and migraine, says the Mayo Clinic. It can also trigger several other kinds of headaches or even make them worse. Tension headaches feel like a dull pain, tightness, or pressure around the forehead or the back of the head and neck. Anxiety could also trigger headaches. Nearly 50% of Americans living with migraines have anxiety, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

Upset stomach

Stress could cause a decrease in blood flow and oxygen in the stomach. This could lead to symptoms including cramping, imbalance, or gut bacteria and could exacerbate gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, etc. “Researchers have identified a powerful connection between the gut and the brain. Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves. It contains the largest area of nerves outside the brain with the digestive tract and the brain sharing many of the same nerve connections,” says Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Skin problems

Stress can trigger chemical responses in your body that make skin reactive and sensitive. Not only can it make skin problems worse, but it can also make it harder for skin diseases to heal, says WebMD. People could experience skin problems while they are stressed. This is because stress induces the hormone ‘cortisol’ that instructs skin glands to secrete more oil. And oily skin could make people’s skin prone to acne and other skin issues. Also, stress can interfere with people’s daily skincare and that could again aggravate skin problems.

Irregular periods and menstrual cramps

Stress could affect women’s menstrual cycle and could cause irregularities as well as missed periods. The stress hormone cortisol affects a woman’s menstrual cycle when she gets depressed. A rise in the cortisol levels could prevent the brain from sending signals to the ovaries to perform their functions. As a result, ovulation could get delayed or stopped altogether. This could result in a late period or sometimes no period at all says Very Well Mind. Dysmenorrhea (painful periods) is one of the most common gynecological disorders in women. A 2004 study demonstrated a significant association between stress and painful periods among women of reproductive age.