‘Stress causes all kinds of changes in your body,’ says Geert Sulter, neurologist at the headache center of DC Klinieken. For example, stress can give you a headache or ringing in the ears, but it can also make you dizzy or even really freak out.
How does stress cause dizziness?
“When you experience stress, your breathing changes,” the neurologist explains. ‘In a stressful situation you actually want to fight or flee. That fight-or-flight response means your muscles need to get going. The body prepares for this by taking in extra oxygen and exhaling extra carbon dioxide.’
To sprint, your muscles need extra oxygen. At the same time, your muscles produce more carbon dioxide during exercise, which you expel by breathing out briskly.
‘As a result, you have too little carbon dioxide and slightly too much oxygen in your body. The very small arteries in the brain respond by squeezing. As a result, certain parts of your brain do not get enough blood flow, which is why you get a light, dizzy feeling in the head.’
According to the neurologist, accelerated breathing when you are stressed can even cause you to faint. ‘You are especially sensitive to this with chronic stress. The increased alertness level of your body makes you dizzy more quickly. That is a very bad feeling, which can also cause you stress. And that in turn increases the dizzy feeling.’
What can you do against dizziness and stress?
What is the best thing to do if you feel light-headed? ‘Get out of the stressful situation and lie down or sit in fresh air. Breathe slowly through your nose,” says Sulter. To eliminate stress and dizziness, you will have to lower your body’s stress level. Sufficient rest and a healthy diet can help bring your brain from code red back to code green. According to the neurologist, exercise is also important for your brain.
‘You don’t have to run a marathon straight away, but cycling and walking can also reduce your brain’s alertness level and sensitivity to stimuli. This ultimately makes you less vulnerable to dizziness.’