A certain amount of stress is perfectly normal. In fact, Cleveland Clinic states that “the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it”.
It’s when stress levels are consistently high that it begins to affect our health.
The UK-based Mental Health Foundation warns that “if our stress response is activated repeatedly, or it persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body and can cause us to feel permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’. Rather than helping us push through, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope”. Chronic stress can result in further serious health problems too.
This Stress Awareness Month, we take a look at some of the side effects of unhealthy stress, including how to fight it …
Worry and weight gain
Stress promotes obesity, according to a study published in Biological Psychiatry The researchers discovered that constant stress resulted in “obesity-related metabolic responses”, causing weight gain and that chronic stressors could potentially add “almost 11 pounds [five kg] per year”. According to weight loss and lifestyle physician, Dr. Charlie Seltzer, not only can stress cause weight gain but it can cause weight gain “in the most dangerous area of the body”, the belly, which he says, “carries major health risks like diabetes and heart disease”.
Stress effects that also need stressing
Echoing Dr. Seltzer, Mayo Clinic lists overeating and obesity as side effects of stress too, citing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes as additional associated risks.
Exercise, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques are among the best ways to manage stress, according to WebMD. Consider the following from the medically approved site:
- Physical activity can help boost mood and promote good sleep, both of which are important for taming stress.
- “The benefits of eating healthy foods extend beyond your waistline to your mental health,” states WebMD, which adds: “A healthy diet can lessen the effects of stress, build up your immune system, level your mood, and lower your blood pressure.”
- Inadequate sleep can worsen stress-causing “a cycle of stress and sleeplessness”.
- Slow movements, like stretching, yoga, or some kind of meditation or mindfulness practice, may help lower anxiety and promote calm.
Of course, if stress is proving too difficult to manage on your own, reach out to an appropriate health professional.