Today’s fast paced work environments and overbooked schedules bring with them a lot of added stress and concern. In recognition of Stress Awareness month it is important to be aware of the negative impact stress can have on your life.
- Fight or flight – This is a protective response that is supposed to defend the body against danger. When in a stressful or dangerous situation, the body responds by creating chemical reactions that churn out the hormone cortisol. This chemical raises blood pressure and blood sugar. While this is an important reaction if you are undergoing a great physical battle, in situations of everyday stress, it can be detrimental to long term health.
- Cravings – Food cravings because of stress have been linked to the added cortisol levels in your body which create a desire for sugar and fat. It is believed that the hormone binds to receptors in the brain that control the intake of food. This can be particularly dangerous for individuals who already struggle with obesity issues.
- Fat storage – Similar to cravings, cortisol is also connected to the body’s propensity to store fat and enlarges the size of fat cells during periods of great stress. This is particularly true of abdominal fat. Additionally, poor eating habits that often accompany periods of stress also contribute to increased fat levels
- Heart health – While it is uncertain if periods of stress are linked to heart attack, there are studies that show a correlation. Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle is important regardless of your stress level.
- Sleep issues – Stress can create a condition called hyperarousal in which individuals who are under inordinate amounts of stress do not enter a state of sleepiness. Short term insomnia will pass once times of stress have passed. However, if you are suffering from long-term stress, it is important to come up with tactics to manage your sleep.
- Headache –Chemicals that create the fight or flight reaction can also be responsible for headaches and tension. This is because they produces the chemical adrenaline which can create vascular changes during the letdown period after the stressor has subsided. Stress can also create muscle tension which can make a headache even more severe.