Let’s face it, modern life is fast-paced and often leaves you feeling like you are biting off more than you can chew. While Ella Fitzgerald was probably right when she said “Into every life a little rain must fall” we all still face times when the stresses of our lives can feel a little bit overwhelming.
At the same time, there are different types of stress. The American Psychological Association recognizes that there are three different types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. They can further be broken down into other descriptors like eustress, distress, and even therapeutic stress.
While stress is often thought of as being largely psychological, it can nonetheless have a major physiological effect on the body. Many people who are going through a stressful patch in life experience other emotions and impulses like feeling short-tempered, or frequently tired. Some even develop cravings for comforting foods that might not always be so healthy.
How Do The Eyes React To Stress?
Most people don’t realize that stress can also affect their eyes. The physiological impact of stress on your body can go beyond just its effect on the brain, digestive system, and heart. Indeed, your eyes can also be affected by stress. Especially chronic distress
Most of the time stress-related eye issues are temporary. If you have a chronic eye issue it could start to affect the health and normal function of your eyes. Even if the issue causing the stress in your life is out of your immediate control, you might still want to see an eye doctor see if there are other treatments that can help your eyes.
What Are Some Of The Symptoms Of Stress Related Eye Issues?
Early on it might be hard to sort out the impact that stress is having on your eyes. Yet as time goes on, you should be wary of the following symptoms:
- Tunnel Vision is particularly alarming and may also be a symptom of another eye health issue like glaucoma. As time goes on, you might start to lose some of your peripheral vision which limits your vision to what is directly in front of you.
- Light Sensitivity is also a somewhat common complaint posed by people suffering from stress-related eye problems.
- Twitching Eyes or spasming eye muscles may occur with one or both eyes. Sometimes occurring at random.
- Overly Dry or Wet Eyes can occur when you are stressed, as many stress hormones and other physiological conditions can affect the fluid balance throughout the body.
- Blurred Vision can range in severity and might come and go throughout the day.
- Eye Strain might be related to something simple, such as staring at your computer screen for too long. Yet it can also be caused by stress.
- Eye Floaters that swim across your vision may be linked to stress, as well as other eye health conditions.
What Causes Stress Related Eye Issues?
Certain emotional conditions like anxiety, or fear trigger your body’s instinctual “Fight or Flight” response. When this happens, your body quickly starts producing hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, which speed up your heart rate, altering the way your body uses blood sugar, and also causing changes in brain chemistry. Part of this process also includes transferring more blood from your extremities to other essential things like your internal organs.
This action is designed by evolution to help protect you in dire circumstances. In primitive times it was a great response to physical danger, posed by a foe or something like a dangerous animal. Unfortunately, it isn’t helpful for modern day problems that cause stress, such as arguing with your significant other or tackling a looming deadline on a major project at work.
While there are some things you can do to reduce your brain’s response to this kind of outside stimuli, it is largely involuntary. When you are experiencing an adrenaline response your eyes can suffer. This is often linked to your brain causing your pupils to dilate. Physiologically, it’s trying to let more light into your eyes so you can see any potential threats clearly.
Unfortunately, when you are under chronic stress the constant dilation tends to make your eyes sensitive to light and can also cause serious strain on your eyes. At the same time when you are very tense, the muscles in and around your eyes can tighten, which can further lead to uncontrollable twitching as well as soreness.
What Can I Do To Help Ease Stress Related Eye Problems
If you believe that some or all your eye problems are directly stress-related, finding an outlet to relax can help. Taken in a certain light, these symptoms are your body warning you that something is wrong. If possible, the wisest course of action is to try to calm down your brain’s response to danger.
There are a few things you can do to help reduce short-term stress responses this includes things like:
- Taking a long bath with pleasing scents and soft music
- Meditating for twenty minutes twice a day
- Practicing rhythmic breathing in a calm place
- Writing in a journal or keeping a gratitude journal
- Vigorous exercise
Make sure that you are also eating well and getting enough sleep each night. Stress effects on the body are often compounded by poor diet or insufficient sleep. Sometimes something as simple as improving sleep hygiene like darkening your room, sleeping with white noise, or removing distractions from the bedroom will help.
If you are under constant stress from outside factors that you feel are beyond your control, you might want to speak with a therapist. They have a wide range of techniques that can help reduce stress or help you to find an effective resolution to the underlying issues that are causing your stress.
If you continue to have problems with your eyes, or you are concerned that your symptoms are more than just stress-related, you should visit your eye doctor. Often times a simple eye exam can catch a more serious eye health condition before it worsens into something that severely compromises your sight.