Now, we all know that stress isn’t good for you. But a lot of us don’t realise just how bad it can be. Or, we bury our heads in the sand about the situation and just keep ploughing on with our stressful lifestyles.

It’s often something we dismiss and accept as just being part of everyday life, without really understanding what the implications of that are.

The negative effects of stress

Stress takes its toll on all aspects of your body and mind. Here are a few ways sustained stress can have a negative impact on you.

  • It can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
  • It can push you to turn to comfort foods which are high in sugar and salt.
  • It can be a big contributor to obesity.
  • It can destroy your energy levels.
  • It can negatively impact your brain health, contributing to memory loss and dementia later on in life.
  • It can cause anger and irritability.
  • It can contribute to anxiety or mean you develop insomnia.
  • It can lead to premature ageing, with wrinkles developing and either hair loss or greying or both.
  • It means we release more cortisol, which leads to problems like depression and inflammation.
  • It can cause hypertension, which means an increased risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
  • It can lead to diabetes.
  • It can cause muscular pains and tension.
  • It can cause migraines.
  • It might have a negative impact fertility.
  • It can compromise your immune system, meaning a higher risk of infections and allergies. That can also mean it takes you longer to recovery from illnesses or diseases.

How to know if you’re stressed

Right, so you know all about the impact that stress can have on your body and mind. I think we can all agree that it’s not pretty.

But how can you identify whether or not you’re experiencing abnormal stress levels?

How do you know when it’s time to do something about it? How do you know when it’s starting to seriously compromise your health?

We all get stressed now and again. It’s too much to expect an entirely stress-free life, as stress can occasionally be helpful as a driver and motivator. It’s a natural reaction to tricky situations that we find ourselves in.

But it should be a temporary, occasional state, not a constant one.

These are signs that you’ve got a significant problem with stress that really needs addressing. If one or a few of them sound familiar, it’s a sign you need to make a change.

  • Weekend migraines – you’re constantly stressed during the week, but as soon as the stress levels drop off at the weekends you get migraines.
  • Extreme period cramps – women who are stressed out often get more serious period pain than those who aren’t.
  • A sore jaw – this is often a sign of grinding your teeth whilst you sleep, which can be worsened when you’re stressed.
  • Insomnia – you find it difficult to get to sleep.
  • Interrupted sleep – you often wake up in the night.
  • Bleeding gums – stress can impair the immune system, which can mean that bacteria can invade the gums causing gum disease.
  • Breakouts – stress = inflammation, which can lead to adult acne.
  • Cravings for sweet treats – stress can cause cravings for chocolate or other sweet indulgences.
  • Changes in appetite – some people have a bigger appetite when they’re stressed, but equally, others lose their appetite.
  • More severe allergy symptoms – your allergies are affecting you more than they usually do.
  • Constant colds – as stress can affect your immune system, it can mean that you end up getting ill more frequently.
  • Fatigue – decreased energy levels.
  • Low sex drive – stress can lead to less sexual activity and satisfaction.
  • Digestive issues – especially if you have a digestive disorder.

How a healthy lifestyle can help combat stress

If some of the signs of stress listed above sound familiar to you, then it’s time to take action. High levels of stress are totally unsustainable for your body and mind.

Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to combat, manage and prevent stress for all kinds of reasons.

Let’s take a look at how exercise and stress relief are linked, followed by a look at how a healthy diet could help ease stress.

Exercise and stress relief

We all know that, in general, exercise is a great idea, as it makes you healthier and boosts your well-being, so you just feel better in your body.

But if we’re focusing on stress, then exercise produces endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters, which can boost your mood.

It can also increase self-confidence, help you relax, and even lower symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

Exercising can also mean you sleep better, which can help ease stress. Lack of sleep is a vicious cycle, as if you sleep badly you can feel stressed, and if you’re stressed then that takes its toll on your sleep.

Exercise is also great way of meditating on the move. We all know how good meditation is for our minds, but a lot of us struggle to do it when we’re sitting still.

Have you ever got to the end of a great exercise session, game, swim, walk, climb or dance and realised that all those thoughts crowding your mind had just melted away?

Focusing on a single task like exercising can help you remain calm and focused in all areas of your life, which can help bring those stress levels down.

Healthy eating and stress relief

Right, so we’ve established that exercising can help alleviate stress, but just being active isn’t always enough. A healthy diet pays a massive roll in minimising stress levels too.

That can be because a lack of good nutrition can make you feel less energetic, which can affect your productivity, causing you to feel stressed because you’re not getting anything done.

So, eating a healthy, balanced diet can boost those energy levels, meaning you feel better about yourself on a day to day basis.

A healthy diet can also help boost your defences, meaning that you’re generally healthier, so you don’t have to worry about poor health or the fact you’re missing out on work because you’ve got a constant cold. If you’re constantly feeling under the weather, then your quality of life is negatively affected.

Eating well can also help balance your moods and emotions, which can help make sure you’re your relationships are happy and healthy and, therefore, that your stress levels are kept in check.

Do you struggle with stress? Do you find that being active and eating healthily helps? I’d love to hear all about your experiences. Get in touch with me @seansalingerfitness


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