Within the past month alone, 75% Americans have felt stressed and overwhelmed. Science has shown that overtime stress can significantly impact your health in a negative way by causing:
- Panic attacks
- Problems sleeping
- Chest pain
- Allergic reactions
- Stomach problems
- Weight Changes
So how is a little bit of extra stress leading to all of that?
The answer is a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol levels are increased during a stress response as a way of preparing the body for a potentially harmful situation, such as a chance encounter with a lion. You are preparing for your fight-or-flight moment. Your pupils are dilating, your heart rate is increasing, and your muscles are burning as much glucose as possible. Cortisol is preparing you for your lion encounter, but the problem is that 99% of the time your stress isn’t caused by a lion or harmful situation. It is the product of overworking and taking on too much.
This is where the problem sets in. Your stress is not a quick fix, so it builds leading to major health problems. It also starts to affect your weight. You start craving comfort foods, your metabolism slows down, your appetite spikes starting first thing in the morning, and your body stops recognizing leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. All of this combined over time causes you to gain weight, especially in your abdomen.
But there is hope! You can take control by knowing the symptoms of stress and working to manage your stressors. Try:
- Exercising to help relieve built up stress and tension in a healthy way.
- Taking a walk when you get overwhelmed at work or at home.
- Talking to your support group.
- Getting a good night’s rest.
- Removing stress eating! Listen to your body’s hunger cues and choose healthy foods, instead of those tempting comfort foods.