When wanting to improve our overall health it’s easy to become consumed by the foods we eat, the amount of exercise we’re doing and how much coffee, alcohol and soft drinks we’re gulping down, but did you know one of the biggest hindrances to a healthy life are our stress levels?
Stress isn’t just a feeling, it’s a biological and physical response that affects our entire body. When we’re under stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released, which is super helpful in the situation where they’re required i.e when your life is in danger, but the issue is that when we release these hormones constantly over long periods of time (which many of us do) it starts to have a damaging effect on our health.
The body’s response? To shut down! Yep, sustained stress starts to put your body in extreme preservation mode and may result in the following:
Too much cortisol will begin to affect your adrenals, which leads to extended periods of fatigue and lethargy. And in a completely ironic way too much cortisol can also affect your sleep. So even though you feel exhausted your body is confused and thinks it’s stressed. When we’re in a calm state we produce less cortisol which is what allows us to fall into a restful slumber.
Be still my beating heart
You know that feeling you get when you’re about to do something high risk, like jumping out of an aeroplane or breaking up with a partner? Your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty, your breathing shortens? That my friends is adrenaline and it’s the stress hormone used to manage high-anxiety scenarios, however sustained stress can put your heart health under duress increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and also raise your blood pressure, causing hypertension.
It makes you reach for the cookie jar
Or whatever sweet takes your fancy, because stress is known to increase cravings. Not only are sweets a nostalgic and habitual crutch that we use as comfort but cortisol tells your brain to replenish its energy stores resulting in an increased appetite.
It’s responsible for your jeans not buttoning up
I know so annoying, but if you’re eating more calorie-dense foods (see previous point) stress will ensure that your body stores any unused energy as fat, primarily around your stomach. Yep, that’s right cortisol loves storing fat (especially on women) around the midsection. Spare tyre anyone?
It messes with your immune system
When we’re tired and run down our immune system cops a beating. Stress affects our immune cells and it’s the reason why you often fall sick when things in your life are really stressful. So inconvenient!
Stress ages you!
Getting old is hard enough without stress coming along and speeding up the process, but trauma and stress produce free radicals and damage chromosomes, which may cause you to age faster. Plus all that frowning and resting bitch face creates unnecessary wrinkles!
No sex for you!
Okay that might be a bit extreme, but elevated stress levels can lower your libido, due to a decline in sex hormones. So not only are you not in the mood because you have a lot on your mind, but the elevation in cortisol levels will mean that the primal urge will be significantly reduced.
So grab yourself a cup of herbal tea, take a few deep breaths, and instead of viewing your health through the lens of just diet and exercise, have a think about how you can reduce stress in your life, and notice the profound impact it has. For more tips on how to reduce stress jump onto our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/skinnyloveco