Do you feel stressed? A little bit of stress is not that bad: it can help you stay alert, up to date, and ready to respond in an emergency. Only when stress becomes chronic can it damage your health. Your body will feel the effects; It can affect your mood, change your behavior – and even lead to weight gain.
In a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers found that women who reported being stressed within 24 hours of eating a high-fat, high-calorie meal burned 104 calories less than women who were not stressed. Although that doesn't seem like much, this difference could lead to weight gain of almost 11 pounds in a year. The stressed women also had higher insulin levels, which helps store fat.
It has also been shown that an elevated level of the stress hormone cortisol increases your appetite, increases cravings for foods filled with sugar and fat, and increases the likelihood of you accumulating belly fat.
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If you can identify symptoms of stress, you can better treat them. Feeling particularly irritated or overwhelmed is a telltale sign of stress, as is dividing headaches and insomnia. But other signs may not be as obvious.
Here are some pointers when feeling stressed reaches an unhealthy level:
1. Does your stomach hurt a lot?
Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting – these and other gastrointestinal problems often occur in people who are too stressed, according to a study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. Stress can also affect the way food moves through your body, causing diarrhea or constipation. You are also more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux. And if you already have an indigestion like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), research suggests that stress can be associated with an increase in symptoms.
2. Does your head feel blurry?
If you feel stressed, you may lose focus, have difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and may even forget appointments. Research suggests that certain hormones released after a stressful event can affect memory.
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3. Are your back and shoulders stiff?
Your muscles contract to protect yourself from injury when you are stressed, and then release when you relax. But when the stress continues, your muscles remain tense – which can lead to back and shoulder pain, body aches, and even headaches, experts say.
4. Do you have a constant case of runny nose?
A little stress boosts your immune system, which is good if your body tries to fight infection and heal wounds. Over time, however, chronic stress hormones weaken your immune system and decrease your body's ability to enter germs. The result: According to the American Institute on Stress, you are more susceptible to viral diseases such as flu and cold, as well as other infections. One study out of 27 studies found that stress is associated with an increased susceptibility to developing an upper respiratory infection. Stress can also increase the time it takes to recover from an illness or injury.
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5. Is your sex drive down?
Stress is not the only reason why your libido decreases, but it can play a role: a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that women who reported a higher level of daily stress had a lower level of sexual activity and Satisfaction have been associated. In addition, chronic stress can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, experts say. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods that can dampen your cravings. In men, chronic stress can cause a man's testosterone levels to drop, which can lead to erectile dysfunction or impotence.