We’ve all experienced something that makes our blood pump a little more than usual. From bumper to bumper traffic at rush hour, the pressure to meet a deadline at work, or juggling the responsibilities of parenting, our fast-paced lifestyle can make us feel under the gun. Stress affects your health in more ways than you think, and can be treacherous to your overall well-being.

Abnormal Cortisol Levels

You may know that cortisol, in reasonable amounts, is beneficial to the body. For example, waking up in the morning or going for a jog releases the hormone into the bloodstream. It’s known as the “flight or fight” hormone. When a stressful situation presents itself, cortisol restricts the arteries as you confront and fix the problem. The adage “too much of a good thing can be bad” holds water when it comes to cortisol production, which can be responsible for a myriad of other health issues. When the body is continuously producing cortisol, here are a few surprising ways the stress affects your health:

  • Quick Weight Gain- Stress eating? Yes, it is real.  Cortisol and insulation are dependent on one another. When cortisol increases, the body becomes more resistant to insulin, which can be responsible for weight gain and diabetes.
  • Heart and Lung Complications- If you already suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, or asthma, increased levels of cortisol can make conditions worse. It can be like a heart attack waiting to happen.

Stress, The Brain, and Behavioral Functioning

Most of us are already aware of how stress affects your health and body, but what about your brain? Your brain reacts when put under stress. Studies have shown some effects of stress are positive, like improving mental acuity, but other damaging conditions could develop. You may have never thought that the development of mood disorders like depression or anxiety could be linked to stress.

Also, frequent stress has been shown to shrink the actual size of the brain. These effects on the brain have led individuals to have a lower satisfaction for life, leading them down a path to depression. Activities they once enjoyed, like going for a run or even being intimate with their spouse, are no longer are fun for them.

Stressed individuals will have a harder time sleeping. When your body is pumping out these stress hormones, it can become almost impossible to get a decent night’s sleep. The same brain neurons are responsible for helping you get to sleep also produce stress, so the vicious cycle continues. Over time, individuals who have chronic stress have also shown signs of aging quicker at the cellular level, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 

There Are Solutions For Managing Stress

Everyone undergoes stress at some point in their lives, but fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to manage it. Start by listening to your body. As an observant person, you can identify signs your body is under stress like lack of sleep, irritability, or substance abuse. Even on a hectic day, try setting time aside for meditation or deep breathing. Finally, don’t give up. Seek professional hope if you can’t seem to cope alone.