Tough day at the office? Join the club. Although stress sucks, it’s a pretty normal part of life. But stay highly-strung for too long and its insidious effects can be damaging. Here are five ways stress is harming your body – and simple tips so you can kick it to the curb.
5 things stress is doing to your body
Packing on the pounds
Whenever you’re feeling particularly stressed a hormone called cortisol is released into your system. This nasty piece of work has been linked to sugar and fat cravings so feel free to blame cortisol for all those cheeky brownies you grab on coffee runs when under the pump at work.
Love nothing more than ending a tough week with a vino… or seven? It might be time to rethink your method of unwinding. The Aussie lifestyle has programmed us to associate boozing with kicking back – which is doing your waistline zero favours. Quick ‘n’ dirty tip: Keep homemade trail-mix made from mixed raw nuts, berries and dark chocolate on-hand for when the stress monster sends you snacking. And instead of hitting the wines come Friday, hit the nail bar and treat yo’self to a mani/pedi instead.
Killing your sex drive (and sex appeal)
If being highly strung gets your loins a-rocking, then congratulations – you deserve a medal. But if you’re like 99.9 per cent of people, the last thing you want to do when you’re under pressure is get under the covers. We don’t need a research paper to prove that fact. Chances are you’ve spent plenty of nights alone watching Netflix and chilling by yourself because you’re too worn-out to do anything but lie facedown on the couch. And when you spend your days walking around with an intense case of resting bitch face, you’re probably not sending out ‘come hither’ signals to anyone anyway. Quick ‘n’ dirty tip: Put a face on and get outside. Even if you’re dog-tired and mid-way through Jane the Virgin, get in the shower, throw something nice on and go out with the girls. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself that you’re a hot piece of tail – even if you go home alone.
Disrupting your sleep patterns
Times of intense stress can cause you to become restless and suffer from insomnia. When you’ve got a lot on your mind, an endless to-do list ticking over and millions of emails to get through, it can be hard to shut down enough to get a decent night’s sleep. This leaves you feeling tired but wired.
If you can sleep again when the stress ends, that’s great. But long-term stress can cause more serious sleep disorders. Even if you technically get 7-8 hours’ shuteye a night, it’ll likely be restless and you’ll wake up feeling smashed. Quick ‘n’ dirty tip: Start exercising. Working up a sweat will help burn off excess energy (read: stress) and leave you nicely knackered at night. Turn off every screen at least 45 minutes before bed. Also, use lamps instead of overhead lights. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through Facebook in bed, open a real book! And if you feel like more serious issues are at play, considering talking to a professional.
When it comes to the human body, science is finding that there’s no place to hide from stress – even our digestion and immune systems can’t escape. Stress causes inflammation, which means more colds and flu in the short-term and higher risk of serious disease long-term. Digestion is controlled by the central nervous system so when someone’s getting on your last nerve, that system shuts down, stopping bloodflow, which wreaks havoc on your digestion. Quick ‘n’ dirty tip: Breathe. No matter how terrible things feel, you’ve always got your breath. Take 5-10 minutes to go somewhere quiet and just . . . breathe. Close your eyes then inhale for four seconds; exhale for four seconds. All the way into your belly, all the way out.
Hitting your memory hard
Constantly forgetting your keys might be one of your cute little quirks, but if your forgetfulness is getting out of hand, you could be suffering from brain overload. When you can’t think straight, cortisol levels might again be to blame. Too much cortisol stops brain cells from talking to each other, leaving you with the memory of a senior citizen goldfish. Quick ‘n’ dirty tip: If you’ve pulled a blank on something, just leave it and come back later. Plugging your brain will probably stress you out even more, which won’t help the situation. A regular meditation practice can help in the long-term, so start by building in just a few minutes a day.