3 things we consume when stressed and the impact on our physical & mental health

3 things we consume when stressed and the impact on our physical & mental health

When the pressure is on and our stress levels increase, we often reach for things to give us comfort or an energy boost.

Three of the most common things we reach for are caffeine, sugar and alcohol. They can make you feel better in the moment but they all have a massive effect on your body and brain.

1. Caffeine

A shot of caffeine might give you an energy boost but it also has long-term effects on your body. It is a central nervous system stimulant, so can provide an immediate alertness and also temporarily relieve drowsiness and fatigue. It does however affect your body in numerous negative ways:

The negatives:

  • It increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which can be a major concern if you have a preexisting heart issue.
  • Too much caffeine can over stimulate your brain, which in excess, can ultimately lead to confusion.
  • Headaches can result from too much and is also a sign of withdrawal.
  • It can cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting.
  • Too much caffeine is linked to fertility issues and miscarriage.
  • As caffeine promotes the release of cortisol (the stress hormone), for some people this response in the body is synonymous with anxiety and panic attacks.

Half of the caffeine you consume will still be in your system 5 hours later. As it is a stimulant it will disrupt your sleep at night, which can see you reaching for more coffee the following day, as you are tired from lack of quality sleep.

2. Sugar

Sugar is said to be more addictive than cocaine, yet it is freely available and indeed ‘hidden’ in a lot of our food. It might give you an instant rush but there are lots of things on the downside:

The negatives:

  • Sugar sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose.
  • Consuming fructose actually increases your hunger and desire for food far more than glucose, which is the form of sugar found in starchy foods, so it can lead to weight gain.
  • It can accelerate skin aging and contribute to acne.
  • A high sugar diet increases your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
  • Whilst a healthy diet can improve your mood, too much sugar increases your chances of developing depression and cancer.

Sugar spikes your blood sugar and can lead to major fluctuations in your energy levels – the opposite of what you are looking for.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol can be enjoyable and provide a little relaxation on social occasions. When we head towards excess however, it has many negative effects:

The negatives:

  • It shrinks the frontal lobes of your brain, which negatively impacts on your memory.
  •  It alters your behavior patterns.
  • It can lead to blackouts and where you have no memory of what you did the night before because it interferes with how your brain makes memories.
  • Chronic heavy drinking is linked to cardiovascular disease, pancreatitis, and cancer. It also damages the liver so you are less able to properly remove harmful substances from your body.
  • It can lead to stomach problems, frequent diarrhea, infertility, sexual dysfunction and also lung infections.
  • An excess of alcohol leads to fatigue, muscle cramps, changes in your coordination and numbness.
  • It disrupts your sleep patterns.
  • Getting the toxin out of your system depletes you of essential nutrients, especially B12 which you need for concentration and brain functioning.

If you find yourself unable to go for more than a couple of days without having an alcoholic drink you may be developing a dependency.

As with all things, the more you consume the more tolerance your body builds up to it so you will find yourself consuming more just to get the same positive effects. In other words you can end up with a dependency on the substance and the more you consume the bigger the impact on your body.

When things are off limits it amplifies our desire for them which triggers cravings, so complete abstinence can be a huge problem.

Everything in moderation is key.

If you feel you are tipping into dependency, then make positive changes to rectify the situation. 

If you need to – seek professional help.

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