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How does stress affect your energy level, and how can you cope?

by Tina Sendin April 29, 2019

How does stress affect your energy level, and how can you cope?

If you’re feeling so stressed right now, you’re not alone.

A recent study notes that one in four Americans think they’re going through high levels of stress. And 50% of the US population says they’re suffering from moderate stress. [1]

With all the multitude of things that go on around us – work, relationships, finances, even everyday stressors like traffic – this isn’t a news flash at all. We’re living in a hyperactive world that it’s hard not to get troubled by different worries.

Stress is our body’s manifestation of fight-or-flight, a coping mechanism necessary for survival. This throws back all the way to the ancient days when stress prompted humans to survive threats, like a wild boar chasing sapiens in the forest. [2]

But too much stress – especially when gone unchecked – can affect our body in many ways.

One of them? It saps us of energy.

 

5 ways stress drains your energy

 

Stress can make your brain smaller

It may sound like a joke – but there’s scientific evidence to this.

According to neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, chronic stress impacts brain structure and function in the long-term. [3]

The website Healthcoachfx.com says in its article “3 Ways Stress Affects Your Body & How to Stop It Immediately”: [3]

High levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak havoc on your brain literally causing it to shrink in size! Chronic stress shrinks your pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating behaviours like concentration, decision-making, judgement and social interaction. It also kills, shrinks and causes loss of synaptic connections between neurones in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that is vital for learning, memory and stress control. 
 
When the hippocampus weakens, so does your ability to manage stress, as well as to learn and remember things. Shockingly, chronic stress eventually sets the stage for more severe mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer’s disease. 
 

Stress makes us sick

When we’re stressed, our immune system becomes weak. Chronic stress also affects the function of other organs and cells in our system.

This is how it happens: 

  • Chronic stress weakens immune function, making you susceptible to infections. It also makes it harder for your body to recover and heal. 
  • When stressed, your body produces more adrenaline that makes your heart beat faster and blood pressure higher. This can lead to hypertension.
  • Too much cortisol causes cholesterol build up in the arteries and arteriosclerosis. When left unchecked, this could result in heart attack and stroke.
  • Chronic stress affects the function of your intestinal nervous system. Too much stress can cause irritable bowel syndrome and make your gut more sensitive to acid. Say hello to heartburn. It could also negatively impact your digestion as stress alters the quality of your gut bacteria.
  • High levels of cortisol can build up “visceral” fat layers around your organs. This type of fat triggers the production of more “cytokines,” which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance.

 

Stress makes us feel tired, thanks to an imbalance in neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are brain cells’ way of communicating with each other. Some of the commonly known neurotransmitters are serotonin (happy hormones), adenosine (present in caffeine), and dopamine (for reward, memory, learning, and attention).

An imbalance and deficiency in neurotransmitters manifests in depression, mood problems, and other psychological disorders. This can wreak havoc on your general mood and energy levels.

And this is caused by a number of factors. One of them is – yep you guessed it – chronic stress. 

  • Chronic stress brings down your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are both involved in managing your mood, tension, energy, and motivation. [4],[5],[6] Deficiency in either serotonin or dopamine leads to depression, anxiety, binge eating, addiction, lethargy, apathy and anhedonia (inability to take pleasure in life).
  • Acetylcholine is another neurotransmitter that has something to do with energy. It triggers wakefulness, alertness, higher cognitive functions, and energy. It can also affect other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine. Chronic stress prompts more acetylcholine to be broken down, thanks to an enzyme. This leaves you with less acetylcholine in the brain, hence less energy and alertness. [7] 
  • GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Chronic stress can also induce GABA resistance, which can keep your brain from being relaxed and recharged. [8] With GABA resistance, you’ll feel more stimulated and it may lead to overthinking, fear, anxiety, tension, and low quality sleep.

 

Stress can make you less intelligent

Ever had that moment when you’re so panicky and stressed you could hardly think?

This isn’t a fluke. It’s a natural occurrence. And this is because certain parts of your brain, which are involved in deep thinking, decide to shut down.

According to this article “Everyday Stress Can Shut Down the Brain's Chief Command Center”: [9]

“Prefrontal cortical areas, which serve as the brain’s executive command centers, normally hold our emotions in check by sending signals to tone down activity in primitive brain systems. Under even everyday stresses, the prefrontal cortex can shut down, allowing the amygdala, a locus for regulating emotional activity, to take over, inducing mental paralysis and panic.” 

By turning off our brain’s essential parts for higher level of thinking and activating those involved in fear, chronic stress can lead to poor decisions, which can negatively impact our health and energy in the long term.

  

Stress upsets your circadian rhythm and sleep

This could be one of the more obvious ways of stress disrupting our lifestyle. It’s just so hard to sleep when you have racing thoughts that won’t stop.

Disruption in circadian rhythm can cause the following: [10]

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lower resiliency in the face of stress
  • Increased rates of dozens of diseases
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue

Stress influences sleep in the following ways [11][12]:

  • It lengthens the time it takes for your to doze off, resulting in chronic sleep deprivation
  • You need slow wave sleep, which can help cell regeneration. Stress cuts down the amount of slow wave sleep, leading to less beauty sleep.
  • Stress can give you nightmares. (Flashback to that moment when your work stress seeped through to your dreams.) It can influence your current emotional state and lead to a downward spiral of more stress. Instead of helping you regain energy, sleep can add to even more stress.

To get better quality sleep, click these articles:

 

You can also try taking herbal supplements which can help you sleep well. Check out our sleep supplement made with deodorized valerian to benefit from this amazing herb without its potent smell.

 

How can you regain your energy when stressed?

When you feel like stress is too much to handle, try these simple hacks:

  • Enjoy the outdoors. A lack of exposure to the sun can literally make you feel dull and lethargic. Just basking in sunshine (and Vitamin D) can naturally reinvigorate you. Plus, a little movement from even a few meters of walking can lift up your mood.
  • Eat healthy. You may have heard this before, but junk food doesn’t help your case at all. Lean more towards energy snacks packed with vitamins and nutrients like nuts, protein bars/smoothies, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Take the powerful duo of caffeine and L-theanine. Caffeine and L-Theanine work together to help you concentrate and stay focused without the jitters, crashes, and anxiety that can come from caffeine alone.

 




Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin

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