Chronic Stress Can Ruin Your Health and Your Life.
Stress can make you sick, unhappy, and fat. Learn why and what you can do about it.
Our body and nervous system are still living in the stone-age, where a stress reaction was needed to run away from an acute, short-term threat.
During these so-called fight-or-flight responses, the body releases stress hormones such as epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) or cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, blood pressure, triggers the release of glucose (blood sugar) and makes you breathe faster to ensure extra oxygen supply that will help to make you more alert.
Once the threat is over (aka when our ancestors escaped from the mammal), the levels of the stress hormones get back to normal.
That’s why short bursts of stress can be handled well by your body.
The problem is that finishing a stressful project or being trapped in a traffic jam usually takes longer than running away from a threat. The stress hormones will stay elevated and cause all sorts of issues:
If your blood sugar level stays elevated and you don’t use the extra glucogen to run away or physically fight a threat, the extra energy can be stored as body fat.
And according to Dr. Ann Webster, a psychologist at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, this can increase your risk for diabetes (or make it worse if you are already suffering from it).
Apart from that, chronic stress can lead to other health issues such as high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, (mild) depression, or stomach issues.
Some of the above-mentioned issues can cause a chain reaction or a vicious circle:
For example, insomnia can worsen depression or anxiety. The more anxious you are, the fewer the chances that you will find restful sleep.
I was once working in a job that made me frequently fly to different time zones, which always messed with my sleep. I knew that I needed that sleep to perform in my job and I started to stress about my lack of sleep to a degree that I could hardly fall asleep without taking high doses of melatonin and sometimes even chemical…