Why Does Stress Make Healthy Habits Fly Out the Door?

Discover why we tend to slack off on healthy habits when we are feeling stress

Stress is a real buzz kill, but not just because it impacts your mood. Too much stress has both mental and physical consequences that affect our body and behaviors:

  • Productivity
  • Time management
  • Appetite
  • Hormones
  • Mood/attitude

However, each of us reacts to stress in our own way. Still, we have many of the same triggers: jobs, school assignments, relationships, finances and other issues. Stress may cause one person to avoid food altogether while tempting another person to overeat.

You can also bet that no one is overeating salads and a tray full of vegetables when they are stressed. We tend to reach for unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sugar, carbs and calories.

The Impacts of Stress

Your body sees stress as a threat. Certainly there are good kinds of stress (eustress) that motivate us to do something positive, like study hard for an exam or save up money for a new car. Bad stress, on the other hand, is dangerous because of the havoc it wreaks on the body.


Stressful situations challenge your body to respond physiologically. The body releases hormones, like adrenaline, which raise blood pressure and give us the feeling of a tight chest that makes it hard to breathe. Cortisol is another key hormone. Constant stress releases cortisol into the blood stream which can increase your appetite and influence food cravings.


Let’s briefly return to cortisol. When we are stressed, and our body releases cortisol, we are more likely to eat food – and a lot of it. Think about a college student who has a final the next day and is munching on a box of pizza to make it through a study session. Or, think about a working mother who, after a long and trying day, might stop at the drive-thru for a combo meal.

These behaviors are not a sign of poor willpower. They are signs that you are stressed and under pressure, leaving your body to respond in the way it knows how.

Activity Level

When some people are stressed, they can’t stop moving. Their legs and arms have to be busy at all times. On the other hand, some people experience a heavy burden that prevents them from getting up and being active. This person might have trouble with housework, running errands or working out. Imagine stress as the marionette and you as the puppet. You might not feel totally in control of how you behave and react to stressful triggers.

Tips for Handling the Pressure

  • Learn what triggers your stress and ‘poor’ behavior
  • Plan healthy food options to grab in a trying moment
  • Stay active to release endorphins and combat cortisone
  • Open up to your loved ones for support
  • Get professional help if you have chronic stress and anxiety
  • Steer clear of food-centric places when you are stressed
  • Find healthier options to fit your lifestyle
  • Make it a point to protect your self-care
Want more tips for stress management? CLICK HERE to learn about stress and how it’s related to weight gain.

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