updated 5/30/2011 11:01:14 AM ET 2011-05-30T15:01:14

In his recent book, "On the Brink," former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson admits to getting so stressed out during the height of the 2008 financial meltdown that he would start to dry-heave, sometimes in private and other times in front of congressmen and staffers. Paulson isn't alone. Physical symptoms of stress, such as dry heaving, can manifest themselves in weird ways when the affairs of life get too overwhelming. And sometimes, you may not even realize that stress is the cause.

1. Vomiting: As Paulson found out, dry-heaving (or retching, in medical terminology) is one way that stress can rear its ugly head. But it's more often a sign of anxiety. Stress and anxiety can also trigger vomiting and a condition called "cyclic vomiting syndrome," a condition in which people experience nausea and vomiting over an extended period of time — often, starting at the same time every day. Dealing with anxiety-induced dry heaves or vomiting starts with getting plenty of rest and drinking water (vomiting can cause a loss of electrolytes), and then finding ways to calm down or eliminate the source of your stress, such as practicing walking meditation.

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2. Hair loss: There are multiple reasons that your hair could be falling out, from genetics to medications. But stress is one of them. Among the conditions associated with stress-induced hair loss is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which white blood cells attack hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. Another condition triggered by stress that has even more extreme results is called telogen effluvium, which is basically characterized by a sudden loss (up to 70 percent) of hair. This condition can be difficult to link to stress because the hair loss can occur months after a stressful event, for instance, a death in the family or childbirth, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. However, the organization notes, it's usually a problem that corrects itself once the stressful event is over.

3. Nosebleeds: There is some debate as to whether nosebleeds are triggered by stress, but studies have shown that, in some cases, patients who experience nosebleeds get them after finding themselves in stressful situations. A 2001 article in the British Medical Journal suggests that this could have something to do with the spikes in blood pressure that are very common when you're stressed out. Keep your blood pressure in check by drinking hibiscus tea. Simply escaping the daily hubbub for a while to brew it could be enough to lower your stress levels a bit.

Soothe stress with a 1,000-year-old trick.

4. Memory loss: If you notice you can't seem to remember the details you just discussed during a stressful meeting, it could be an effect of your shrunken hippocampus, says Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, psychologist and director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, and advisor. Chronic stress can expose the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls your short-term memory, to excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And that can inhibit your brain's ability to remember things. Dealing with the root cause of your stress is the best way to get your memory back, but until that happens, write down important bits of information and find other ways to supercharge your memory.

5. Weakened immunity: Perhaps the most noticeable effect that stress has on your body is a weakened immune system, and that happens for a couple of reasons. First, stress triggers the release of catecholemines, hormones that help regulate your immune system; prolonged release of these hormones can interfere with their ability to do that. Second, says Rossman, stress shrinks your thymus gland, the gland that produces your infection-fighting white blood cells, and it damages telomeres, which are genes that help those immune cells reproduce. A good way to deal with stress and boost your immune system is to exercise; if you're so stressed out that you can't fit in those 30 minutes a day, try these other tricks for boosting immunity.

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6: Excessive sweating: Everyone knows that you sweat more when you're stressed out, but some people suffer from hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating, particularly of the palms and feet, says Rossman. Yoga and meditation can help reduce stress-related sweating, and if you think you might be suffering from hyperhidrosis, find a physician who specializes in the disorder. You may be helping more than just yourself. A study published last fall in the journal PLoS One found that stress sweat can give off certain signals that people around you can detect, possibly causing them to be stressed out as well, as a result.

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Video: 7 tips for a stress-free family

  1. Closed captioning of: 7 tips for a stress-free family

    >> juggling the kids, house and careers is taxing. this month's health magazine is filled with ideas that can help you build a stronger, happier and healthier family. the magazine's contributing medical editor joins us. dr. raj, good morning.

    >> hi.

    >> i love the first idea about trying to take -- destress your life. i'm feeling it could be stressful. i have a family that's quite large. you're saying make meal times fun. sit down together, that's one thing. but when sitting down together, it should be fun.

    >> exactly. i was reading the intro, stress free family sounds like an oxymoron. you know, it can be fun. we do know that eating together as a family can really help decrease depression rates in children, decrease eating disorders , boost achievement. so it is really important. how to make it fun? mix it up a little bit. there is backwards day. you actually have breakfast foods at dinner and vice versa . do something different and fun. you really do want to get yourself together as a family and make it something that kids actually look forward to.

    >> it's a memory when you grow up. i remember when we sat down and ate together. that's true. the next toip stress free family living is having an adds venture.

    >> yeah. we have found in research that doing new things, having new experiences increases the feel good chemicals in our brain. so do something new with your family. take a trip. it doesn't have to be expensive. go somewhere different. the other thing that really boosts positive feelings is helping people. this is a lesson you want to teach your children early. so whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter or gathering old things together and donating to a shelter, you want to really teach your kids early that it's very important to incorporate this into their daily lives.

    >> the next one is perhaps something that maybe a lot of parents wouldn't think about, you say texting.

    >> right. so we all think parents and texting is the vain of their existence.

    >> put that down.

    >> yeah, if you can't beat them, join them. but really texting is a way can you actually stay connected with your kids. you know, often in the teenage years they don't want to hear all the mushy stuff luke i love you and all these things. you can text to them. they know you're thinking about them. it's a way to stay connected during the day.

    >> all right. also, finances can be a big cause of stress for families, especially now when we've gone through so much -- so many troubled times. you say you have the trick. it's the three ds?

    >> money is one of the biggest causes of problems in marriage, disclose, discuss and decide. the first one is the most important. you need to be honest about financial things. you don't want to be making big purchases without consulting your partner. you also want to be hohn best what your financial goals are as a family. you need to get together and discuss that. and then you want to look at the behaviors that you're both doing as a family even your kids, teach them good behaviors early. getting them financially sound early on will help them later on.

    >> you mention the marriage. obviously the marriage is a big part of the family and can contribute to stress f you're not finding time together away from the kids that, can be a huge problem. you say it's important to stay connected with your partner to avoid stress.

    >> absolutely. and you know, especially when kids come in. it's very difficult to find time. not just doing the dinner and movie which is the traditional thing but again, something new, a new experience with your partner can bring back those, you know, first love feelings that you thought were gone forever. can you actually get it back.

    >> all right. and you also say it's important to remember the romance. maybe it's not so great and not connecting at that point. so you say reduces the stress to really concentrate on the romance part.

    >> concentrate on romance. there is a mathematical formula keep in mind, fooive to one. so for every one negative interaction with your partner, whether it's a complaint or fight, you want five positive things.

    >> usually it's the reverse.

    >> unfortunately in many households is. let's try to get on the positive side. thankful. kissing each other hello and good buy. these are things that can make you more positive and more positive feelings for each other.

    >> you also say you need to do some things for yourself. it may involve blowing off steam. what are your suggestions?

    >> you know, you might feel like you're complaining when you talk about your problems. it's actually important to get it out there. whether it's talking to a good friend or even a therapist, take the time to discuss what's brothering you. it will make you feel better and 30 minutes a day, do something just for you, whether it's reading a book, taking a hot bath. you need to focus on yourself. otherwise, no one is going to get taken care of.

    >> if mom ain't happy, nobody is happy?

    >> that's the motto in my house.

    >> thank you so much dr. raj.


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