Feeling Fat, Frumpy and Frazzled? You’re Probably Stressed.
Stress is a natural response that was designed to keep you alive. Your body responds to a life threatening situation with a chain of chemical reactions that gives you a burst of energy to ensure your survival. This is extremely useful if you need to outrun a lion. Traffic jams, deadlines at work, family issues and the stresses of everyday life are triggering the same response in your body as being chased by a lion. No one can outrun a lion all day, everyday. Your body is simply not designed for that and your health may be paying a price for it. If you are experiencing any of the following, your body is telling you it’s time to slow down, take a deep breath and find ways to rejuvenate. Here are 6 signs that you are too stressed.
1. You don’t sleep well.
Do you ever experience a second wind right around bedtime? That’s a clue that your cortisol levels are off. The natural cortisol rhythm is to drop to its lowest levels at night time, allowing your body to relax and recharge. Being overstressed creates elevated cortisol levels that make it so you toss and turn all night. Then you feel tired again the next day, starting the vicious cycle over and over again.
2. You’re gaining weight even though you workout and eat well.
When we are stressed, our body prepares for “fight or flight” by producing adrenaline which helps you feel less hungry as your blood flows away from internal organs and into your large muscles. But, once the effects of adrenaline wear off, cortisol kicks in. Cortisol tells your body to replenish your food supply and suddenly you’re hungry. Really hungry. So despite your efforts to do everything “right” you may be gaining weight because of stress.
3. You crave sugar.
Too much cortisol raises your insulin. High insulin levels then lead to insulin resistance which tricks your body into thinking it needs more sugar. Suddenly you’re hit with an intense craving for a piece of chocolate cake or any other sugary treat. This is a dangerous cycle that may increase your risk of diabetes.
4. You have aches and pains.
You might be holding emotional stress in your muscles, especially the neck and shoulders. Normally, blood flows through the muscles of your neck and back with ease. When you are stressed, certain muscles tense up and squeeze blood vessels. When the blood flow is constricted, or even cut off from tense muscles, your neck and back let you know it with pain.
5. You have digestive issues.
Your digestive system is very sensitive to stress hormones. When stress activates the “flight or fight” response, digestion slows down and impairs your ability to absorb and utilize nutrients. You might also experience nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or constipation.
6. You feel anxious.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease. It’s normal to have anxiety just before a big test, or job interview, but when you’re feeling anxious over everyday situations, it can be a sign that you’re too stressed. Elevated cortisol and epinephrine can lead to jitters, nervous stomach, and feelings of panic.