Have you ever walked into a busy room and felt a wave of dizziness sweep over you? Did things appear to be shifting or tilting? Did you feel faint or confused? Did you find yourself sitting down to find your balance? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may have experienced stress-induced vertigo.
Vertigo is the feeling of dizziness or imbalance even when you’re standing still. It’s as if the room is spinning around you and your body is unbalanced and out of control as a result. While stress alone does not cause vertigo, it can contribute to inner ear dysfunction which may lead to a stress-induced vertigo attack.
Let’s explore why millions of Americans suffer from stress vertigo, plus its common symptoms and methods of prevention.
Common Signs of Stress Vertigo
Stress vertigo can look different for everyone. The most common signs are:
- Difficulty hearing or seeing
What Causes Stress Vertigo?
The Vestibular System
A culprit of the dizziness caused by stress vertigo starts within the ear: the vestibular system, to be exact. The vestibular system is an organ inside your ear filled with fluid and tiny hairs, and is responsible for maintaining balance. If this area of the body is discombobulated, it can cause dizziness, imbalance, and difficulty hearing or seeing (all key symptoms of vertigo).
There are also certain emotions that can trigger the vestibular system to react in a negative way. Why would emotions have anything to do with our balance? It all comes down to simple biology.
You’ve likely heard of the fight or flight response. When adrenaline, cortisol and stress rise in the body, a strong urge to fight or flee from the situation occurs. When hormones—particularly cortisol—increase in the body, it can disrupt your vestibular system from communicating with the brain. The result is a disoriented, imbalanced feeling. Common emotions that can trigger vertigo are: anxiety, worry and fear.
How to Prevent Stress Vertigo
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent, reduce and avoid stress vertigo—many of which can be done immediately! Check out some of our top tips below, or read a more in-depth guide on mindfulness activities here.
Practice Deep Breathing
Inhale and exhale slowly to calm the nervous system and promote blood flow from your vestibular system to the brain.
Take a Walk
Walk in a green, natural, and calm environment to lower your cortisol levels.
Listen to Relaxing Music
Playing peaceful music or your favorite songs can be a great way to lower stress levels and promote emotional balance.
Dehydration can be stressful on the body and nervous system. Make sure to drink plenty of water to promote clarity and keep your mind fluid.
Regular meditation can lower stress and anxiety levels for the long run. Much like taking deep, long breaths, meditation helps clear the mind and calm the nervous system.
Talk to Someone You Trust
Share your concerns, fears, and anxieties with a therapist or someone you trust—before they manifest as stress vertigo.
Play With a Pet
Multiple studies show that playing with a pet can lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure and improve mood. If you don’t have a furbaby of your own, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter for some much-needed canine or feline therapy.
Eat Healthy, Balanced Meals
The nutritional choices you make have an impact on your stress and anxiety levels. Drinking coffee past noon or alcohol late into the evening can trigger anxiety, making stress vertigo more likely to occur.
Pick up a pen and allow your worries to flow out through the page. Journaling can be a great way to mitigate harmful thoughts and give the nervous system an outlet to express concerns.
Get Better Sleep
Sleep plays a huge role in supporting brain health, reducing stress and promoting balance. Try to get 7-9 hours of rest per night to support your body’s natural de-stress process. Learn more about the benefits of sleep here.
Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Use
Alcohol and tobacco are inflammatory to the body. Reducing your intake can make a huge difference in how your body balances hormones and manages inflammation.
Conditions Related to Stress Vertigo
Stress and anxiety aren’t the only things that trigger stress vertigo. There are some other, more serious issues that may come into play, including:
- Heart arrhythmia: An irregular or abnormal heartbeat.
- Blood pressure problems: Sudden drops in blood pressure can make you feel dizzy or faint.
- Past Head Injuries: Previous trauma to the brain or skull can trigger dizziness and vertigo.
When to See a Doctor About Vertigo
There comes a point when self-diagnoses are not enough and you need to seek medical help. If you’re experiencing fainting, difficulty breathing or chest pains, make an appointment with your doctor.
Stress vertigo doesn’t have to haunt you. You can manage your stress and anxiety at home and lower your risk of experiencing vertigo and its associated symptoms.
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