Stress is a personal thing. What might stress me out may not bother you, and vice versa. A little bit of stress is good for motivation and may help your memory. However, ongoing stress can impact your health in negative ways. Increased doctors visits and serious illnesses may be linked to stress.
Stress can come from a short-term frustration, such as a traffic jam or waiting in line, or a major life event like losing a job or divorce. Either way, it can affect our bodies and our overall health.
Here are 10 ways that stress may be impacting your health, and you don’t even realize it:
Cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, may trigger cravings for sugar and fat. If you already have a higher body mass index, you may be even more susceptible to cravings. The key is to know your stress triggers and stock up on healthy snacks. Or, make sure you don’t have unhealthy treats on hand when you know you may be guilty of emotional eating.
Causes weight gain
Stress can also be correlated with weight gain. In addition to the cravings caused by the stress hormone cortisol, higher levels of cortisol may also be linked to more belly fat. You may also have poor eating habits when you’re more stressed.
Messes up your memory
When you’re stressed about getting to an important appointment on time, it can be harder to remember where you put the car keys or when you last filled up the gas tank. Stress seems to fog up your memory and make it harder to remember simple things.
Raises blood sugar
Stress is known to raise blood sugar levels. If you’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes, stress can substantially increase your risk of developing the disease. For those who already have Type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are higher when under stress.
Impacts your vision
Stress can cause a range of eye symptoms – from eye twitches to hysterical blindness. In both cases, it’s important to find the underlying causes of the emotional stress and then try to eliminate the causes of the stress.
Gives you headaches
The “fight or flight” chemicals that are released during a stressful event can cause vascular changes that give you a headache or migraine. It can happen while you’re stressed or during the “let-down” period afterwards. Stress can also make you tense your jaw muscles or clench your teeth, both of which can create a tension headache.
Keeps you up at night
Work issues or life events can keep you tossing and turning at night. Loss of sleep is linked to a number of health conditions and creates a vicious cycle. Insomnia increases your stress and keeps you up even more at night. Getting a better night’s sleep can help you cut down stress before it starts.
Creates digestion problems
Heartburn, stomach cramps and diarrhea can be caused by stress, or can be worsened by stress. Bouts of constipation and diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome, are also thought to be partially fueled by stress.
Weakens your immune system
Chronic stress can make it harder for you to fight off viruses and bugs. It lowers your immune system by creating hormonal changes in your body.
Makes you age prematurely
I want to live as long as possible. Traumatic events and chronic stress are both thought to shorten the telomeres in your chromosomes. This change causes your cells to age faster. It seems that exercising vigorously three times a week may be enough to counteract the effects.
We all know that chronic stress is bad for us. Our modern society creates a long-term state of stress, and it’s hard on our minds and bodies. If you’re feeling stressed, find ways to relax and learn to let go of stress!