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What is Stress?

Stress can be highly personal, with one person’s unpleasant experience being another’s exhilarating adventure. While a little bit of stress is thought to be good for memory and motivation, about 70% of doctor visits and 80% of serious illnesses may be exacerbated by or linked to stress.

Am I At Risk?

Take this quick quiz to find out how stressed you may be.  There are only 10 questions so try not to stress!

In the past week, have you felt overextended?

In the past week, have you asked yourself what else can go wrong?

In the past week, have you felt as if you are never going to get ahead?

In the past week, have you felt inadequate?

In the past week, have you felt like nothing is going right?

In the past week, have you had difficulty sleeping?

In the past week, have you had difficulty concentrating?

Over the past week, have you been overeating to deal with feeling overwhelmed?

In the past week, have you been too busy to get to the gym or get some type of exercise?

In the past week, have you often felt that you are always late for something?

If you answered yes to four or more questions, you may be at risk for stress-related health issues.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Overcommitment

Those who have too many irons in the fire are more likely to experience stress related illnesses due to a busy lifestyle.

Anxiety

Those who tend to have more anxiety and have a difficult time setting aside their worries to relax are more likely to experience stress related illnesses.

Major Life Changes

Major life changes can be huge catalysts for stress related illnesses.  It can be incredibly difficult to manage your day-to-day responsibilities while caring for aging parents, mourning the death of a loved one, or going through a trying divorce proceeding, for instance.  Don’t underestimate the need to take additional measures for self-care and stress relief during difficult times like these.

Chronic Illness

Chronic illness can substantially add substantially to your stress levels, even if you aren’t aware of it at first.  Left unchecked, this can increase the odds of developing yet another illness that is stress-related.

What Can It Do To My Body?

Stress makes us all miserable!

Too little time, too much work, or too many demands from the outside world can all add up to some minor health concerns, but these factors can also cause more serious illnesses.

Stress is what brings many of us to our medical providers with complaints of headaches, stomach issues, fatigue, muscle tension, sleep issues, weight gain or loss, anxiety, and depression.

If we ignore these symptoms, we can end up with more serious illness.

Some of the results of stress in your life could be:

Cravings

Studies have linked cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, to cravings for sugar and fat. Scientists believe the hormone binds to receptors in the brain that control food intake, and if you already have a high body mass index, you may be even more susceptible. The key is to know your triggers, and be ready when deadlines loom or whenever stress is likely.

Fat Storage

“You can clearly correlate stress to weight gain,” says Philip Hagen, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Part of that link is due to poor eating during stressful times, but the stress hormone, cortisol, may also increase the amount of fat tissue your body hangs onto and enlarge the size of fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more deep-abdominal fat—yes, belly fat.

Heart Problems

The exact relationship between stress and heart attack is still unclear, but evidence is mounting that there is one. A recent study of 200,000 employees in Europe found that people who have stressful jobs and little decision-making power at work are 23% more likely to have a first heart attack than people with less job-related stress.

Insomnia

Stress can cause hyperarousal, a biological state in which people just don’t feel sleepy. While major stressful events can cause insomnia that passes once the stress is over, long-term exposure to chronic stress can also disrupt sleep and contribute to sleep disorders. .

Headaches

“Fight or flight” chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol can cause vascular changes that leave you with a tension headache or migraine, either during the stress or in the “let-down” period afterwards. Stress also makes your muscles tense, which can make the pain of a migraine worse.

Memory Issues

Too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, can interfere with the brain’s ability to form new memories. During acute stress, the hormone also interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. That can make it hard to think straight or retrieve memories.

High Blood Sugar

Stress is known to raise blood sugar, and if you already have Type 2 Diabetes, you may find that your blood sugar is higher when you are under stress. One study of obese women without diabetes found that those who produced more stress-related epinephrine had higher fasting glucose and bigger blood sugar spikes when asked to recall stressful life events than those with lower epinephrine, suggesting stress might raise your risk for getting diabetes too.

Digestive Issues

Heartburn, stomach cramping, and diarrhea can all be caused or worsened by stress. In particular, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS – which is characterized by pain and bouts of constipation and diarrhea – is thought to be fueled in part by stress. However, stomach ulcers, once thought to be caused by stress, are triggered by H. pylori bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics.

What Can I Do?

It’s not easy to make sweeping changes to reduce stress. We often set goals that are often unrealistic and hard to obtain. We often set goals based on how we are feeling in the moment and then fail to follow through.

As a health coach, I am here to help you set realistic goals, to start making small changes in your life. I am here to hold you accountable. I am here to provide the support and education you need to make sustainable changes.

Let’s get started!

Start by contacting me to schedule a free consultation. We will discuss your needs and goals and get you started on a path to a healthier lifestyle.