The Dangerous Effects of Being Chronically Stressed Out

What is stress?

Stress is the response of your body to what it perceives as a threat, challenge or an uncomfortable situation.

Eustress - Stress that produces a positive effect

Distress - Stress that produces a negative effect

There is good stress and bad stress, At the moderate level, stress can actually improve the ability to concentrate and perform at your best. Beyond that level, it begins to take a negative toll on the performance.

Recognizing Stress

Your body will give out indicators which you may be encountering while being chronically stressed

  • Heart palpitations

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Headaches

  • Indigestion

  • Pain in the neck/ or lower back

Why is this a problem?

Chronic stress is linked with many of the metabolic diseases out there, it can cause

  • Weight gain

  • Cardiovascular diseases

  • Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Anxiety

  • Weakened Immune system

Effects of chronic stress on the body

Increased risk of Cardiovascular Disease - During stress, the body goes into "fight or flight" mode, which triggers adrenal glands to release the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

These can cause the heart to pump blood faster resulting in high blood pressure. Over time when the body is constantly under "fight or flight" mode, it can cause inflammation in the arteries, Which is one of the biggest factors leading to coronary heart diseases.

Obesity - During stress body releases cortisol, the hormone responsible for giving the fat-storing signal to the body which means more storage of fat.

In constant stress, you tend to go for high fat and high carbohydrates food to increase serotonin level, the body's feel-good hormone.

This means that while the body is in fat-storing mode, you are also eating more of the bad fat and carbohydrates leading to rapid weight gain.

Difficulty in Sleeping - Due to stress your body is out of balance leading to abnormal levels of hormones, which makes it difficult to get a proper night of rest.

The increased level of cortisol and adrenaline can cause disruptions and can prevent you from enjoying the full benefits.

Digestive Problems - These can include diarrhea and constipation or nausea and vomiting. Stress can affect how quickly food moves through your system and the way your intestines absorb nutrients.

Acne, hair fall - Uncontrolled stress can cause skin, sensitivity, and trigger acne breakouts, our bodies produce more androgens.

These hormones stimulate your skins oil glands, which can result in unwanted acne and breakouts, The loss of hair caused by stress is known as hair shedding.

The link between Stress and Binge eating

When we are stressed we are not mindful, we grab onto whatever gives us instant gratification and what better to get instant comfort then junk foods.

Eating foods high in salt, sugar and fat, gives us a high kick of Dopamine (a feel-good hormone), which isn't the case with salads or fruits.

The reason restaurant foods are so delicious is because of that added salt, sugar and fat to make it a little bit addictive for the customers otherwise no one will want to come back for more.

Stressed induced eating patterns

Consuming Fried and Sugary foods: People with chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty, and sugary foods, This includes, sweets, processed food, Sweetened Beverages and other processed things that aren't as good for you.

These foods are typically less healthy and lead to increased weight gain.

Eating Emotionally - Increased levels of cortisol can make you crave unhealthy food.

You might find that snacking or reaching for a second helping provides you with some temporary relief from your stress.

Eating more Fast Food - When you are stressed out, you are more likely to forgo healthy dinners at home in favor of fast food.

Fast food and even healthier restaurant fare can both be higher in sugar and fat with larger portion sizes.

Avoiding Exercise - With all the demands on your schedule, exercise may be one of the last things on your to-do list.

A long commute, hours spent sitting behind a desk, and time spent staring at the TV might leave little opportunity for physical activity.

Reduced Water Consumption - You might forget to drink water when you are busy dealing with the challenges of life.

It's easy to confuse thirst for hunger and you might eat more when you are not drinking enough.

Skipping Meals - When you are juggling a dozen things at once, eating a healthy meal often drops down in priorities.

You might find yourself skipping breakfast because you are running late or not eating lunch because there is just too much to do your to-do list.

Trying Fad Diets - Weight gain leads some people to intentionally eat less food than they need, or try fad diets in order to lose the excess weight.

Diets that aren't balanced with fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy carbohydrates can often be bad for your health in the long run, even if they look attractive short term.

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that stress was linked to a slower metabolism in women.

Stressed women also had higher levels of insulin, which contributes to the storage of fat.

They also had less fat oxidation, which is the conversion of large fat molecules into smaller molecules that can be used as fuel for the energy. The fat that is not burned is stored.

Even if you aren't eating more than usual, experiencing high levels of stress may cause you to gain weight.

Weight change may also result due to hormonal changes triggered by stress.

The body's response to stress has been linked to changes in metabolism, insulin, and fat storage.

Bottom line

Being chronically stressed puts the body into survival mode. People who are stressed not only gain weight due to overeating but also because the body shifts its metabolic needs and stores fat because your blood sugars are constantly being released from the liver and muscles, and when we don't use those blood sugars for energy, it's converted and stored into fat.

So Chronic stress can be an extremely dangerous condition for anyone. Chronic stress doesn't takes place overnight, its an accumulation of little things, like problems at work, relationship, financial issues etc which leads to being stressed out every single day,

Hence it's important to keep an eye on our stress levels and take care of our mental health just as we do with our bodies.

Also Read - Simple way to Manage Chronic Stress with Lifestyle Changes

Rahul Malpe

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