4. Stress disrupts your sleep
Sleep is a crucial human function, allowing our bodies to rest and recharge. When you’re stressed and worry too much, you can’t sleep. The sympathetic nervous system doesn’t shut down and your brain remains hyperactive, keeping you wide awake late into the night. When you don’t get enough high quality sleep, you’re tired and easily agitated, so you become more stressed, and the cycle goes on.
Stress can both decrease the quality of your sleep and rob you of sleep entirely, which leads to an endless list of troubles such as impaired cognitive functioning, slower metabolism, lowered insulin sensitivity, increased appetite and irritability. And chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a big number of health problems, including obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
5. It’s a downward spiral
Here’s the thing. When you let stress get the best of you, there is virtually no going back. You will sleep less, eat more, breathe shallowly, skip workouts, enjoy less of your activities, get anxious and depressed more often and fail to meet your expectations. All of this will create more and more stress and dissatisfaction, thus giving birth to a vicious cycle – and you may not be aware of it until it drains all life out of you.
In order to escape from your troubles and soothe your aching mind, you might seek comfort in numbing activities such as emotional eating, drinking or laying on your couch and watching junk TV all day long. When your mind has had too much to handle, the only way it can cope with a persistently overwhelming situation is to not feel anything. Of course, this will make you feel even emptier instead of bringing you real pleasure or relaxation. And the worse you feel, the more numbness you crave.
In turn, this shut down of awareness can easily create a disconnection between you and the signals of your body, impairing your ability to recognize these messages and act accordingly. If you are no longer able to recognize your feelings of hunger and fullness, you are more likely to overeat. If you are no longer able to recognize your emotions, you are more likely to make bad decisions.
And when you’ve lost control over your mind and body, you will lack the willpower and determination required to turn your dreams into reality, including your ideal physique. Instead of that, you are more likely to become overweight and have less self-confidence.
So, how to fight it off?
The truth is that stress hides all over your body and brain and you’d be a fool to ignore it if you’re serious about perfecting your body. Rather than letting stress take over your life, you could train yourself to apply positive practices to prevent its negative effects on your health and mind.
First, you need to be aware that stress begins with your perception of it. Your reaction to stressful situations is learned and brought to an almost automatic level – but you can successfully unlearn it and replace it with a more relaxed approach to life’s challenges.
Reframe the stressful situations you encounter with the help of a positive mindset and learn to become more self-assertive. Remember, you always have a choice, so just choose to react differently than what you are used to. Try to change your viewpoint and see things in a more positive light. Become aware of your thought pattern and recognize the negative ways of thinking that keep you in a chronically stressed state of mind, such as catastrophizing and thinking in terms of all-or-nothing, and replace them with healthier ones.
Get to know your emotions and learn how to let them go. Master the art of self-forgiveness and don’t hold onto feelings of guilt and failure – these will only keep you chained to the past. Learn to smile even when you don’t really feel like it!
Also, try to organize your time and energy in a more efficient way so that you can gain a feeling of control over a hectic lifestyle. Divide your big goals into smaller, more easily obtained ones. Spend more time in nature, surround yourself with more people who make you feel good and engage in activities that help you relax. No matter how clichéd that sounds, those things really help.
And whatever you do, don’t forget exercise – it’s one of the most powerful tools for fighting off stress and anxiety, as well as becoming strong and fit. It’s crucial to take good care of your body – you only have one and it needs nourishing and activity in order to perform at its best.