Effects of Stress
We all hear how bad stress is for us, and that we have to control it. But what does this really mean? What are the effects of stress on us?
How Does Your Body React to Stress?
When you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. In small amounts, cortisol does not present a problem. But when the stress is chronic, the concentration of cortisol in your body stays elevated with undesirable results.
For example, you will crave foods that will give you quick energy, such as candy bars and potato chips. And the presence of cortisol will cause many of these extra calories to be stored as abdominal fat.
You may also find it hard to eat in moderation while stressed, because cortisol can interfere with the chemicals in your body that control appetite.
The Good News
While you can never get away from the effects of stress on your body, there is much you can do to keep it under control and how it affects you.
- Exercise. You can reduce cortisol levels in your body by exercising just thirty minutes each day. To make the most of your workout time, try intervals. Alternating between lower and higher intensity periods of exertion allows you to achieve an overall more challenging workout than exercising at a consistent pace.
- Eat Well. During times of stress, fuel your body smartly. Be intentional about eating nourishing foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and nuts. If you eat these foods, you will keep your blood sugar level steady, and you will be less likely to give in to the cravings that cortisol causes.
- Don’t Skimp on Sleep. By getting at least eight hours of sleep each night you can reduce your cortisol level by more than half of that of people who get less than six hours. You really can sleep away your stress!
- Identify your Stress. Generalized anxiety can be paralyzing. Take the time to sort out exactly what is causing you to feel stressed. Rather than saying, “Work is causing me so much stress,” figure out the specifics. Perhaps you are stressed because you can’t find an error in a spreadsheet you have been working, or you have been asked to perform a job that you don’t understand. Once you pinpoint exactly where the stress is coming from, you can take steps to take care of the problem.
Make Time to Relax. Taking time to unwind is not a luxury; it is a necessity if you are going to master your stress. Find something that makes you laugh and smile. Your mind has a profound impact on your body; take advantage of this by finding time to relax every day and reduce the effects of stress on your body.