Physical wellbeing

Grief is experienced in your body too. The shock of the loss, even if you were expecting it, can trigger the release of adrenaline and other chemicals that can make you feel anxious and lead to a range of other symptoms.

Feeling tense, experiencing headaches, feeling sick, unexplained aches and pains, and a tight feeling in the chest and stomach are all common physical responses to grief.

Physical reactions caused by the emotional strain of grief can, in turn, affect your ability to manage your emotions and think clearly. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about any physical issues that are worrying you or making it harder to cope.

Learn more about these common physical responses to grief:

  • Sleep issues – Many people who are bereaved find that their sleep patterns change. Some people find it hard to get up in the morning and end up oversleeping, while others struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.
  • Exhaustion – Don’t be surprised if you have no energy and feel constantly tired. Adjusting to any major change is exhausting, and too little or too much sleep can make you feel even more tired.
  • Changed appetite – Having little appetite or an increased appetite are both common responses. Some people may also experience an upset stomach.

Tips for looking after your physical wellbeing

  • Get some exercise every day. A walk in the morning can shift your mood, clear your head, raise your energy levels for the day and make it easier to sleep at night. You might also like to try swimming, dancing or playing a team sport. Even giving the house a vacuum or mowing the lawn can help if you’re feeling tense.
  • Try to maintain regular sleeping hours, going to bed and getting up at set times. Oversleeping can leave you feeling even more exhausted.
  • Don’t panic if it is hard to sleep. Get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading a book or having a bath, and then try going to bed again. Check with your doctor before trying sleeping tablets or natural sleep remedies.
  • Talk to your doctor about seeing a psychologist for some simple strategies (such as tracking and adjusting your night-time routines) if your lack of sleep is ongoing.
  • Encourage yourself to eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you have lost your appetite, snack frequently on nourishing, easily digested foods.
  • You may find you are eating unhealthy foods or large amounts for comfort. A poor diet can affect your mood, so explore other ways to help yourself feel better, such as getting fresh air and exercise in a park, listening to music, or having a bath or massage.
  • Consider learning meditation or relaxation to help with the anxiety that may trigger sleep issues and stomach upsets. You can listen to our meditation and relaxation recordings right now.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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