Why Stress Negatively Affects Your Body & Drains Your Energy (& What You Can Do to Increase It)
I’m going to ask you two questions that I pretty much already know the answers to. Number 1: Are you stressed? Number 2: Do you want more energy? My guess is you just said a big YES and YES.
We are living in a time where everybody is busy, everybody is hectic, and most people are continually on edge. We have so much school and work pressure, success pressure, and continual political drama. All this means most humans are really stressed out.
Most people are also exhausted. Drinking one cup of coffee after another to make it through their day, dragging through one event after another, and crashing in front of the TV at night.
Here’s the important thing to understand: all this stress and all that lack of energy are totally connected.
In this article, I’m going to explain to you exactly why stress zaps energy, how to deal with that stress so your energy levels can stay up, and what to do in the present moment when your energy has tanked from a stressful situation.
Consider this “Stress and Energy 101.”
Why Stress Drains Your Energy
We’ve all experienced the way stress makes us sleepy and unfocused, but why does it actually happen? Lots of reasons! Here are 4 of the top ways stress will zap your mental and physical energy.
1. The Stress Response Itself
Stress isn’t just a feeling, it’s actually a biological reaction. It’s technically designed to protect you (like when someone wants to hurt you, and you need to run away). But our chronic stressed-out state is not helping anything. After all, a lot is happening when you’re stressed:
- Your adrenals release stress hormones (like cortisol)
- Your muscles tighten
- Your heart pounds more quickly
- Your breathing speeds up
- Your blood increases toward your brain and muscles
- Your blood pressure goes up
To learn more about the stress response and that fight or flight reaction, check out this crash course video on your sympathetic nervous system. You will learn all about how things like hormones and neurotransmitters create a stress response:
But here’s what you need to know in terms of your wide-awake vivacity: all of these aspects of the stress response can zap energy (a lot of these stress symptoms happen during a hard workout…think about how tired you feel after that!), but that’s not all…your body also releases sugar and fat into your blood to use for energy.
That means the calories that were supposed to sustain you and keep you energetic for hours are being released suddenly into your bloodstream.
2. The Big Crash
After all that adrenaline has been pumping through your body prepping you for the fight or flight reaction, it eventually stops. That crash can leave you fatigued at best and flat-out exhausted at worst.
3. Sleep Problems
Many of us have a really hard time sleeping when we’re stressed out about something…or stressed out about lots of things! Around half of all adults report losing sleep due to stress. Then the vicious cycle hits:
You’re stressed, so you don’t sleep well. Research has shown that adults who aren’t getting a full 8 hours each night have far most stress symptoms like irritability, overwhelm and…you guessed it…lack of energy! Then you’re exhausted, which often makes you more stressed. Then your sleep gets even worse.
4. Mental Fatigue
Outside of all the physical reactions to stress that leave you zapped of energy, your brain can simply get tired as well. Most of us have lots of thoughts racing through our brains when we’re stressed. It’s often compared to a hamster on a wheel going around and around. This is just exhausting for the brain, which means you end up feeling like you have zero energy.
Think back to when you were a student taking a hard test. You may have only been sitting in a classroom all day, but you probably left more tired than if you had a workout. The same principle applies to our everyday adult stresses.
How to Manage Your Stress
The first step in getting your energy back is learning how to manage your stress. Below you will find tools that will help you get rid of some stress in your life and better deal with other types of stress in your life.
1. Exercise and Yoga
Studies everywhere agree: moving your body is key for stress relief and boosted energy. But there’s a problem. Studies also show stressed-out people tend to skip exercise! The best idea is to find a type of workout that you enjoy and feels really great to you. Register for a class or make a workout date with a friend, so you don’t miss it!
Talking with a professional is one of the best ways to get a new perspective and non-judgmental advice on your life. They can give you coping tools specific to your situation.
3. Essential Oils
A study of 20 healthy participants showed inhaling lavender can relax and soothe the nervous system (think back to that stress response at the beginning!) Frankincense and bergamot are also some of my personal favorite de-stressing essential oils. Diffuse them at your desk, in your car, in your bedroom, etc.
You cannot do everything at the same time. Learning how to prioritize will help you get all the really important things done while saving your sanity. Learn when to say no.
5. Meditation or Guided Imagery
Either form of mental relaxation can help calm your stress in the present moment and in the future. Science has shown us that this type of mindfulness helps in four ways. It regulates attention, increases awareness of the body, regulates emotions, and improves the sense of self.
6. Deep Breathing
Learning how to breathe correctly from your belly can be a real challenge. But the quick, shallow breaths from our lungs that we’re used to can actually increase stress. Here’s a short video that shows you three yoga breathing exercises to help out:
7. Better Sleep
Many of us don’t get enough sleep each night. Adjust your schedule to leave room for a solid 7 to 8 hours each night. If you struggle to sleep, try a natural sleep aid with ingredients like magnesium and melatonin.
8. Eat Well
Filling our diets with inflammatory foods like sugar is not helping our mental health. Nourishing foods like leafy greens, avocados, berries, quinoa, lentils, salmon, etc. can set your body up for mental success and more energy!
9. Give Back
Volunteering your time does so many things to help you with your stress. It changes your perspective on the world, it allows you to feel good for helping others, and it helps you build connections in your community. Harvard Health found that volunteering not only helped you feel better, it literally improved blood pressure!
10. Let Go of Perfectionism
Demanding that you do everything perfectly is leading to way too much stress. You are not a machine. You are a person. Aim to do your best instead of doing things perfectly.
How to Boost Your Energy When You’re Stressed
No human being will be entirely 100% stress-free. Things happen: an unusually busy workday, a popped tire, a fight with a loved one, illness, etc. While we need to start using our stress management tools right away, we can also address some of that depleted energy in the meantime.
Here are some of the best ways to boost your energy right away when you’re stressed. They’re little pick-me-ups to help you get through the day with success.
1. Caffeine and L-Theanine
We already know caffeine boosts energy, but the problem with too much caffeine is it can make you feel jittery and anxious when you have too much…which is exactly what you don’t want when you’re already dealing with stress. L-theanine comes in to save the day.
This amino acid from green tea is very calming. A study of 34 adults showed stress from multitasking could be reduced in as little as one hour of taking this amino acid. When it’s caffeine’s partner, l-theanine will also stabilize the energy boost, so you feel very focused and very alert, but not anxious. Taking them as a combo supplement can be helpful!
2. Go Outside
Staying inside all day at home and the office can really make you feel sluggish. A lot of that has to do with vitamin D from sunshine! In fact, a recent study showed that getting extra vitamin D could help patients with severe sleepiness. Get outside for even 10 or 15 minutes on a work break to refresh your energy levels. Also, consider taking a D3 supplement.
3. Eat a Healthy Snack
When we’re in an energy slump, many of us may reach for a sugary treat or a bag of chips. While these options may give us a quick high, they’ll leave us with a long-lasting crash. Choose energy-sustaining snacks like nuts, protein smoothies, or hummus and veggies.
4. Call an Uplifting Friend
All of us know someone who drains our energy. Now’s not the time to call that person. Talk to somebody who is uplifting and positive. Catch up, ask advice about the thing that’s stressing you out, or just share something funny that happened at work today for a good laugh.
5. Drink a Glass of Water
Did you know that one of the most common causes of sleepiness is actually dehydration? Even a really mild dehydration can fatigue both our minds and our bodies. At the first sign of fatigue, drink a full glass of water. That may do the trick. Then be intentional about drinking water consistently throughout the day. If you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long.
Less Stress; More Energy
Learning how to better deal with your stress is one of the best steps you can take for increased energy, so be very intentional about adding these little shifts to your life.
Sometimes the hardest part is setting aside time to make these stress-busting methods happen – an hour for therapy, 10 minutes for meditation, 30 minutes for exercise, etc. But the payoff is entirely worth it. You will be more focused, more uplifted, and more energetic during the rest of your day.