Stress has become the norm in our society. It’s so common that people don’t give a second thought to the effect it’s having on our body. Stress can prohibit you from reaching your health goals but more importantly, it has the potential to cause more health issues. In today’s blog, I want to share some of the ways that stress negatively affects you, as well as ways you can combat it.
The effects of stress on the body
- Headaches – Stress can trigger and intensify stress headaches
- Increased depression – Chronic stress can wear you down emotionally and lead to depression.
- Insomnia – Stress makes it much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can lead to insomnia.
- Heartburn – Stress increases the production of stomach acid, which can lead to heartburn and make it worse.
- Weakened immune system – Long-term stress leads to a weakened immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to sickness and infections.
- Rapid breathing – When you’re stressed, the muscles that help you breathe tense up, which can leave you short of breath.
- Risk of heart attack – Over time, an increased heart rate and high blood pressure damage your arteries, which could lead to a heart attack.
- High blood sugar – Stress causes your liver to release more sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream, which over time puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure – Stress hormones tighten blood vessels, which can raise your blood pressure.
- Pounding heart – Stress hormones make your heart pump faster so that blood can quickly reach your vital organs and limbs.
- Fertility problems – Stress interferes with the reproductive system in both men and women and can make it harder to conceive.
- Stomachaches – Stress effects your bodies digestive system, which can lead to stomachaches, nausea, and other tummy troubles.
- Low sex drive – Stress and the exhaustion that comes with it can have an impact on your libido and also cause erectile dysfunction.
- Missed periods – Fluctuating hormones can throw your menstrual cycle off, and in severe cases stop it all together.
- Tense muscles – Stress makes muscles tense up, and chronic stress can lead to tension-related headaches and backaches.
We haven’t even talked yet about how stress can affect your weight yet. When you are stressed, your adrenals are triggered which is essentially your fight or flight response. Glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue are activated for use as a quick energy source. This stress response can lead to loss of muscle mass, increased fat storage and impulses to overeat. Another thing that happens when the body is under stress is extra cortisol is released. Cortisol release under chronic stress can make weight loss difficult for a couple of reasons. High levels of the hormone attack muscle mass, slowing metabolism due to the fact that muscle burns calories to simply exist. Additionally, unwanted cortisol release results in the storage of fat mostly in the abdominal area for later energy use.
As you can see, stress impacts your body in a number of unhealthy ways. So let’s talk about ways that you can reduce your stress. At the end of the day, it’s not about the stress (because you will always have it) it’s more about how you choose to respond to it.
Ways to reduce stress
- Meditation – Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. These benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your entire day.
- Exercise – Exercise is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
- Nutrition – Your diet and nutrition choices can make your stress levels go up or down. Certain foods provide comfort and actually increase levels of hormones in the body that naturally fight stress. Other types of foods and beverages can reduce stress by lowering the levels of hormones that trigger it. Get curious and do your research on what foods will best help you combat stress!
- Connect with nature – Plants have the highest vibrations on the planet and immersing yourself in nature and trigger feelings of gratitude, which can reduce stress.
- Unplug – We live in a very over-stimulated society. We are always connected to our phones, computers, social media, and a number of other distractions. This can increase mental chatter and anxiety levels. I always recommend setting up good habits when it comes to your electronics. Unplug a few hours before you go to bed to give your brain a chance to calm down. If you really want to go big pick times during the week where you unplug completely to plug back into yourself. If you’re really brave, take entire days off from social media and being glued to your phone.
Whatever you do, take stress seriously because as you can see, you can’t afford not too. Left unattended, stress will start to wreak havoc in many areas of your life. Start building your healthy toolkit and explore what activities help YOU feel most calm. That way when you are triggered by stress you can reach into your toolkit and pull out what’s going best serve you in that moment. Because you know what … you’re SO worth it and stress is a choice not a requirement.