We all deal with stress. Whether it be from struggles in our personal life or in or work life, stress is something that is often hard to avoid. In fact, according to the American Physiological Association (APA), 44% of American’s have reported that their stress levels have increased within the past five years.
From the APA (American Psychological Association) website.
Stress affects all parts of the human body, from the brain, sleep, and even reaching your goals.
Let’s first look at what exactly stress is. Stress is the bodies response to a stressor, or something that causes you to be stress. Stress is shown in the body often times through cortisol. During stressful times, cortisol is released through the adrenal glans and works as your bodies energy supply through the breakdown of macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein).
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing aways though. For example, when you workout, you may be putting your body in a state of stress. If stress occurs in a small amount and rapidly, the body may use that stress to adapt and grow.
When cortisol levels are high, this is when stress can be a problem. This can be brought on by “overtraining, excessive stress, poor sleep and inadequate nutrition” which can lead to other side effects.
There are a ton of side effects that stress can cause:
- Muscle tension/pain
- Low sex drive
- Sleep problems
- Lack of motivation/focus
- Overeating or under-eating
- Social withdrawal
And so much more!
The Immune System
Stress, in the short term, can be beneficial to the immune system as it stimulates it to help fight infections. However, in long periods of stress, it can cause many problems. Overtime, stress hormones will cause a weakened immune system making you more susceptible to things like the flu and common cold.
Muscular and Reproductive System
High stress levels can cause problems in many ways with the human body involving the muscular system and the reproductive system. With the muscular system, stress can cause tight muscles because the muscles are not able to relax. This can cause injury as well as headaches and fatigue.
Regarding the reproductive system, stress can cause problems there too if persistent for a long period of time. In males, “sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction” while in females, “lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods.”
High levels of stress can also interfere with your sleep. Sleep is extremely important in many aspects for humans to function. According to the APA, “43 percent [of Americans] report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.” Lack of sleep can cause many problems such as health issues, brain impairment, forgetfulness, depressing, aging skin and more. Sleep deprivation can also make it harder for you to meet your health and fitness goals.
Stress can also alter your progress in the gym and kitchen. Because high stress levels can cause lack of sleep, you may find it harder to perform well in the gym or even reach your fitness goals. Those who lack sleep also may find themselves consuming more calories. High levels of cortisol can also cause you to overeat in order to deal with the stress and pressure.
Although stress is something we most likely all deal with in our lives, there are a few ways to cope with it:
- Regular physical activity (29% of Americans use this method)
- Relaxation exercises like meditation or yoga (12% of Americans use this method)
- Spending time doing things you love
- Keeping a journal
- Spending time with friends and family
- Listening to music you enjoy (47% of Americans use this method)
- Reading a book
In general, try and find a little bit of time a day, even if its just half an hour, to take time for yourself and do something that you enjoy. Giving time for yourself will help decrease your stress levels and its awful side effects.
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Clark, Micheal. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2018
Mcdonald, Lyle, and Eric Helms. The Women’s Book. Vol. 1, Lyle McDonald Publishing, 2017.
Peri, Camille. “10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss#2.
“Stress and Sleep.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx.
“Stress in America.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx.
“The Effects of Stress on Your Body.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#6.)