Chronic stress impacts you more than you may think.
Chronic stress is your brain and body’s response to situations in your daily life. It causes the brain to release hormones such as Cortisol, Norepinephrine, and Adrenaline.
These hormones prepare your body to adjust itself against danger or pressure to stay in a state of alert.
For some people, stress disappears, whereas, for some others, stress lasts and becomes a constant in someone’s life. This is how stress manifests in your body.
Over time, chronic stress can cause a range of changes in the body. It can also trigger a multitude of symptoms.
People can and will experience fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, appetite changes, sleeping disorders, reduced self-esteem, irritability, nervousness, and weight gain.
The list is not exhaustive. Often, people with chronic stress do not even realize they are stressed because stress is the norm.
Even in instances where people fighting chronic stress can be exercising and trying to eat well, nonetheless, they feel their clothes fitting tighter and tighter.
Ultimately, you may have to size up, without realizing that chronic stress is impacting you.
If you have tried healthy diets and cannot stop craving comfort food, you may need to keep reading.
How Does Chronic Stress Work?
Nothing in our body goes well if your brain cannot adapt to stress. For example, if you have problems at work, school, or at home. This gives you an out of control feeling and you may feel overwhelmed.
No worries, it happens to all of us.
Stress is a natural response to what you perceive as a dangerous situation. Our brain is a supercomputer that treats billions of pieces of information per second and adjusts to these situations by sending a chemical reaction as a self-preservation mechanism.
What happens when stress hormones like Cortisol, Adrenaline, and Norepinephrine are released in the body?
Have you ever observed that when you are stressed:
- You breathe faster to get more oxygen in your system.
- Your blood pressure increases.
- Your heart rate gets faster.
- Your muscles are more dynamic.
- You get a boost of energy.
- You are more focused and sharper.
In other terms, stress increases your reactions and helps you process things faster.
Now, stress should drop after the “threat” has been taken care of, allowing the brain and body to go back to a normal state.
In people struggling with chronic stress, the brain continues to produce hormones as long as it perceives a threat fed by fears and uncertainties:
- Am I going to make it financially?
- What’s going to happen with school?
- Am I going to keep my job?
- How are we going to get through this?
- Am I going to lose that client?
- How am I going to absorb more work?
- Am I going to deliver that project on time?
Our lives are filled with questions we try to answer that can feed into chronic stress. Yet, our body cannot handle chronic stress over the long haul.
Ultimately, and over time, we start noticing love handles appear, bellies expand, and thighs increase in size.
If those were not there before, you wonder where these extra pounds come from?
Your extra pounds come from the problems you face at work, at home, and in your life in general.
When you are stressed, your body produces hormones.
Stress hormones, especially Cortisol, can cause higher insulin levels, which causes your blood sugar levels to drop.
When your blood sugar level drops, you are naturally trying to feed on either salty or sweet foods with higher contents of both to help your system recuperate.
It is why we are naturally attracted to “comfort foods” for a good reason! Comfort foods are usually anything but salads and unsweetened green tea.
After a stressful event, who would not be attracted by ice cream or a box of cookies? It is what comfort foods are, a higher concentration of sugars and salt that are so many calories that light up the happy hormones that are impacted by chronic stress.
If the brain and body are impressive mechanics, we are not designed to sustain high levels of stress hormones continually without impacting our own body’s balance. This is why chronic stress has implications in weight gain, which has further consequences on our overall health.
What Are the Health Risks Linked to Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is a chain reaction that can wreak havoc in someone’s life.
Indeed, the production of higher and continuous stress hormones, especially Cortisol, has detrimental effects on the brain and body.
In moderation, Cortisol is normal and a healthy part of the brain’s process of regulating blood sugar. But, in higher levels, Cortisol disrupts the brain regulation, causing multiple issues such as:
- Lower immunity
- Heart problems
- Digestive issues
- Headaches & migraines
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor sleeping patterns
- Weight gain
- The list goes on and on
If acute and short-term stress may suppress appetite, Cortisol’s higher and continuous levels cause the opposite reaction.
Cortisol sends the message to the body to hold reserves of fat for energy. As the brain and body try to create more reserves to withhold the exterior aggression, cravings for high-calorie foods multiply.
Simultaneously, the overall metabolism slows down to preserve calorie storage when it needs it most. As your body slows down, it burns fewer calories.
Cortisol also disrupts our natural body clock. Our natural body clock helps us disconnect at night to relieve the brain. Higher levels of Cortisol can mess up a good night of sleep.
As the body and brain cannot rest normally, more energy is required during the day to compensate for the lack of sleep. Hence, a greater need for salty and sweet foods to keep cortisol running.
Ultimately, more fat is stored in the abdomen, thighs, arms, and other places of the body made for storage.
Increased belly fat may lead to severe heart disease. Not only is a stress belly hard to lose, but it is also a dangerous problem long term:
- Chronic inflammation
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Insulin resistance (Pre Diabetes)
- Leptin resistance – Leptin is the hormone of satiety.
All the above influences weight and specifically weight gain, but also represent severe issues that will negatively impact your overall health and wellness. With time, more diseases can appear.
Therefore, if you gained weight, and these extra pounds are caused by chronic stress, you are in the best spot now to claim your wellness back.
Dealing With The Aftermath of Chronic Stress.
Chronic stress can significantly impact your life.
Higher levels of Cortisol may prevent you from losing weight despite physical activity or diet.
In the case of weight gain, Cortisol may be the root cause of unhealthy habits that you introduced and made part of your lifestyle.
Therefore, the negative impact of chronic stress may never be underestimated and needs be addressed.
Before changing your gym program or starting your next diet, have you considered the impact of chronic stress on your life?