An Australian personal trainer has revealed what really happens to your body when you’re stressed, and the common warning signs that you need to slow down.
Rachael Attard, from Sydney, said there are many things that can contribute to your feeling constantly stressed – from being over-worked to dealing with discrimination, relationship turmoil or even emotional trauma.
But while a little stress can be good to provoke our ‘fight or flight response’, repeated prolonged stress is never beneficial, and it can lead to everything from weight gain to digestive issues, heart problems and a weakened immune system.
‘The effects of stress can have a serious impact on your life,’ Rachael wrote on her
The PT detailed the signs something is wrong, and what you can do about it.
An Australian personal trainer has revealed what really happens to your body when you’re stressed, and the common warning signs that you need to slow down (Rachael Attard pictured)
Rachael Attard, from Sydney, said there are many things that can contribute to your feeling constantly stressed – and nearly all of them have bad effects on your body (stock image)
How can you tell if you are stressed?
The most important thing to be able to do if you think you might be stressed is to figure out the signs of your stress in the first place:
‘These can vary from person to person and may end up changing over time based on the situation you’re experiencing,’ Rachael said.
However, there are some initial symptoms that are more common than others.
These early signs include fatigue or exhaustion, restlessness, wandering thoughts, irrational irritability, headaches and difficulty both in falling asleep and staying asleep.
Rachael explained that these signs of stress are often just the precursor for worse effects down the track.
‘Though most people experience short-term stress, some also have to deal with long-term stress symptoms,’ Rachael said.
These symptoms include gastro-intestinal issues, chronic insomnia, menstrual problems, chronic depression, lack of focus, disorganisation, low energy and weight gain among a host of others.
The first thing you might notice if you’re constantly under pressure either in your professional or personal life is that you’re packing on the kilos, Rachael (pictured) explained
1. Weight gain
The first thing you might notice if you’re constantly under pressure either in your professional or personal life is that you’re packing on the kilos.
‘Cortisol may be the stress hormone that makes it easier for you to respond to stressful situations in productive ways,’ Rachael explained.
‘But that is only in the short-term. When you let it build up over time, that cortisol can encourage your body to store fat.’
If there is cortisol present in your body, the PT said your blood sugar levels will naturally increase to give you a much-needed sugar boost.
This makes it hard to burn calories, and you will end up storing fat.
2. Digestive issues
If you are stressed, you may also notice problems with your digestive system.
These issues can include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, stomach ache and bloating.
Rachael said you should also watch out for heartburn and acid reflux, as these too can be a sure-fire indicator something is wrong.
‘The effects of stress can have a serious impact on your life,’ Rachael (pictured) explained – but there are ways to manage your stress levels
3. Breathing issues
While it might sound far-fetched, the PT said being stressed can even have an impact on your breathing.
This is because the tension and nerves cause your muscles to tense and relax constantly.
Stress often triggers something like asthma. If you had it when you were a child and suddenly get a flare-up, the PT said you might want to consult your GP.
What is stress and how does it work in the body?
* Stress is a situation that triggers a particular biological response. When you perceive a threat or a major challenge, chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body.
* Stress triggers your fight-or-flight response in order to fight the stressor or run away from it. Typically, after the response occurs, your body should relax.
* Too much constant stress can have negative effects on your long-term health.
* Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s what helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive, and it’s just as important in today’s world. It can be healthy when it helps you avoid an accident, meet a tight deadline, or keep your wits about you amid chaos.
* But stress should be temporary. Once you’ve passed the fight-or-flight moment, your heart rate and breathing should slow down and your muscles should relax. In a short time, your body should return to its natural state without any lasting negative effects.
* As the main stress hormone, cortisol plays an essential role in stressful situations. Among its functions are:
– raising the amount of glucose in your bloodstream
– helping the brain use glucose more effectively
– raising the accessibility of substances that help with tissue repair
– restraining functions that are nonessential in a life-threatening situation
– altering immune system response
– dampening the reproductive system and growth process
– affecting parts of the brain that control fear, motivation, and mood
When you’re stressed, your muscles are often tight as you feel worried about something, Rachael (pictured) explained – and this can cause muscle soreness and stiffness
4. Musculoskeletal problems
When you’re stressed, your muscles are often tight as you feel worried about something.
Over time, this leads to serious soreness and pain, and can end up restricting your movement.
5. Weakened immune system
Constantly getting sick and run down?
Rachael said when you’re stressed, your body’s normal responses to viruses and bacteria won’t be as high-powered as it usually is, meaning you risk getting sick more often and staying sick for a longer period.
‘This is because all those resources that your body would normally have used to get rid of illnesses are currently working to try and get you out of your stressed state,’ she said.
6. Heart problems
Finally, stress can even lead to problems with your heart, contributing to the severity of heart disease, especially if you have problems in your family history.
The best ways to mange your stress include getting regular exercise, getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night and making sure you have a healthy diet, the PT (pictured) said
How should you best manage stress?
While it can be difficult to pull yourself out of chronic stress, there are certain tried-and-tested tactics which can help.
1. Get more exercise
One of the best things to do if you’re struggling with stress is get enough – and potentially more than enough – exercise.
Rachael recommends establishing a routine that you can really stick with each week.
‘You don’t have to go crazy. Just keep yourself moving. Do yoga on your off days or just go for a long walk around the block when you’re dealing with racing thoughts,’ she said.
It’s more important to be consistent than to go hard one day and then off the next.
2. Prioritise sleep
The second thing you can do to lower your stress levels is make sure you’re getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Again, create a sleep schedule that involves disconnecting from your phone and other blue light before going to bed, and ensure you wind down for at least 30 minutes before you switch the light off.
Rachael also recommends going to bed and getting up at loosely the same time each day in order to get your body used to a habit.
3. Eat a healthy diet
While easier said than done, a healthy diet can go a long way towards limiting your stress levels.
‘Ditch the processed ingredients and eat a diet full of wholegrains, lean proteins, vitamins, fruit, and fresh veg,’ Rachael said.
‘These foods are full of the nutrients you need to combat feelings of stress and maintain your health.’
4. Find ways to relax
Rachael manages her own stress by doing something relaxing each and every single day.
Whether it’s reading a book, practising gratitude or watching your favourite TV show, do something that makes you relaxed.
5. Work with a professional
If nothing else works and you still feel stressed, the PT said you may need to see a professional.
Find a therapist you are comfortable working with, and then explore the reasons why you’re stressed.
Finally, if you can, Rachael said you should try not to let your stress overwhelm you.
‘The sooner you start committing yourself to finding ways to feel better, the easier it will be to see improvements,’ she said.
For more information about Rachael Attard, please visit her website