How Stress Affects Your Metabolism and 3 Stress Reduction Tips [A NEW STUDY]

Blog Mind How Stress Affects Your Metabolism and 3 Stress Reduction Tips [A NEW STUDY]

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11.19.2019 0 comments

We have all felt the effects of an incredibly stressful day – for some of us that means sugar cravings, others reach for something salty. Some of us just want to crawl under a blanket and hide, while others go into overdrive and power through whatever is causing the stress. Stress causes negative moods, lower willpower, and even reduces your immune system! But that’s not the only way that stress can sabotage your efforts to improve your health. Even if you have the world’s most iron willpower and you’ve never given in to a craving in your life, stress is still having a serious and measurable negative effect on your health, and probably also on your weight – did you know that everyday stressors can actually slow down your metabolism?

Today we’re going to take a look at how stress affects your metabolism.

When your body experiences prolonged periods of stress, your hormonal and metabolic processes also experience a shift that can cause weight gain. In a study done on mice, researchers found a way to subject mice to bullying, which caused high levels of (social) stress in the mice. After a period of time, these mice were not only obese, but also became very, very sick! These mice exhibited hormonal disorders including dysregulated cortisol rhythms, depression-like symptoms, social withdrawal, and changes to their immune and endocrine systems as well as produce binge-eating symptoms in the mice. Interestingly enough, a control group of mice, provided with the same unlimited supply of the same food, but without the stress-inducing situations did not have these negative health outcomes. Stress made the difference between getting fat and not getting fat, on the same obesity-inducing diet!

There are many similar studies that show the same kinds of stress-induced metabolic and hormonal changes in humans as well. Financial stressors are typically one of the highest sources of stress for adults. This correlates with one of the largest predictive factors of obesity: poverty.

In another study, couples who showed more stress and hostile behavior over a marital disagreement while eating dinner had significantly lower (average of 128 calories) post-meal energy expenditure. And then there is a study that showed that women with a just one stressor on the previous day burned 104 fewer calories after a meal than women who reported no stressors. And finally, the hormonal response to stress, in the form of a chronically activated fight-or-flight response, impairs glucose tolerance, decreases levels of testosterone and thyroid hormones, and increases insulin resistance and inflammation.

So stressed humans show the same kind of adaptations as stressed mice. Even if they don’t actually comfort-eat to deal with stress, their metabolisms slow down, their energy expenditure decreases, their hormones become dysregulated.

How to Prevent Stress-Related Metabolic Slow-Down: Stress Reduction!

Stressors are everywhere. But knowing and planning for what you can control will help your body handle the things that are out of your control more effectively. When those unexpected stressors do arise, try some of the following proven stress relieving techniques:

One Minute of Deep Breathing

In as little as 60-seconds, you can breathe your way to peace. When a stressor comes up, if possible, remove yourself from the situation, go to a quiet place, and take 8-10 really slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing will slow your heart rate, flood your body with oxygen, and signal to your endocrine system that you are not in imminent danger! From here, you can make a plan to tackle whatever it is that came up with a level head and a focused mind.

Take a Walk

Walking is proven to boost stress-relieving endorphins, bonus points if you can walk outside! A UK study found that walking through green spaces can put the brain into a meditative state and can trigger “involuntary attention,” meaning that it holds attention while also allowing for reflection.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is monumentally important for overall health, but missing out on your 8-hours of quality snooze time can really diminish your body’s ability to handle stress. Good sleep hygiene practices can help you sleep better and making sleep a higher priority will lead you to sleep rather than use that time for other activities (like mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed!). When you sleep better, life’s difficulties will seem a little less stressful than they otherwise would.

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