5 surprising effects of stress 

man appearing stressed holding his eye glasses

Whether stress is something you experience from time to time, or if it may as well be part of your love language (ours is presents), we can all agree that stress is unavoidable. But even though stress is a normal part of all our daily lives, we shouldn’t let it go unchecked. If left unmanaged, stress can take a toll on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Here’s 5 surprising effects of stress and tips on how to manage it. 

1. It can influence eating patterns 

Ever mindlessly snack your way through a full bag of chips or maybe just one piece of cake suddenly turns into 3? Stress eating is a common way to cope with stress. And yeah, it makes sense for your eating patterns to change when you’re stressed out- you may have less time or less energy to devote towards preparing healthy foods. But there’s also a physiological reason you gravitate towards carbohydrate rich bites.  

Stress ramps up your body’s cortisol production. This infamous stress hormone influences a variety of different processes in your body, including your appetite – especially for high sugar and processed foods.1,2   

Though cortisol may be telling your body it needs quick, easy fuel – it’s best to ensure you’re getting a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein to help your body function at its best. You know the classic saying: have your cake but eat your broccoli too!  

2. Stress can affect activity levels 

Sure, exercise can be a great way to relieve stress but even the most committed gym goers might find it hard to stick to their routine when their stress levels are at a high. Why?  Because stress sets off our fight or flight response (think: high adrenaline and cortisol levels). If you’re in fight or flight mode for a long period of time, you’re going to feel the effects- cue both mental and physical exhaustion.    

So, what’s the cure for stress induced couch potato syndrome? (Don’t Web MD it. We just made it up) Exercise! Even though it might be the last thing you want to do- adding exercise into your weekly routine helps reduce stress hormones like cortisol and encourages the production of endorphins, your feel-good chemicals released by your brain. Plus, exercise can also promote better sleep at night giving you more energy during the day. So, while getting cozy on the sofa might be more tempting than lifting weights at the gym or going for a walk, moving your body regularly can help you manage stress.3 

One little caveat: If you’re feeling totally tapped, don’t push it.  Dragging through workouts is a sign that you need to give your body some rest. If that’s the case, stick to restorative activities like stretching or yoga.  

3. Stress can affect memory 

Ever drive away with your cup of coffee still sitting on top of your car? Same. And somehow that happens when you needed that cup of coffee the most. When you’re juggling too many tasks, it’s only natural that your focus and train of thought derails. Stretching yourself too thin can lead to exhaustion and impact your memory and ability to focus. You may even feel like you’re lost in a thick cloud of brain fog.4 Everyday tasks like remembering where you parked your car or where you put your wallet can be harder to recall (pssst your wallet might be in your fridge).  A cloudy mind is a sign that your body is begging you to slow down, take a breath, rest and resolve the stressor. 

4. It can worsen skin problems 

To add to your list of worries and annoyances…ever notice that when life feels a bit much, it shows on your skin? Ugh! Why?! 

While everyone gets pimples or blemishes at times, stress can actually trigger acne, according to one small study. And the more stressed the person was, the higher the severity of their acne.5 Though researchers are still trying to figure out why this happens, they think that a change in your stress hormones, oil and grease buildup and diet have something to do with it. 

So even after a long day, don’t skip the skin care. Wash your face and take a deep breath. Managing your stress will help keep those pesky pimples at bay.  

And next time you get a blemish that pops up before a big presentation—just know it’s your body’s way of saying “wow, you’ve been working really hard lately!” 

5. It can reduce libido  

You’ve probably found that when you’re busy, you’re not really in the mood to get busy. There’s a reason for that. Stress can influence your libido. Remember our good friend cortisol? Among the long list of things cortisol impacts, it can also suppress hormones that boost sexual desire. People who experience high or long-term stress tend to have lower levels of arousal, according to one study.6  

And if you’re slurping oysters and munching on chocolate in hopes of boosting your sex drive- the science says: don’t bother. Instead, try managing your stress levels through regular exercise, diet, and rest.   

Is stress impacting sleep too? Read 6 ways to improve your sleep, naturally

About Sonya 

Sonya has a bachelor’s degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Diego State University. Before Persona, Sonya worked as a personal nutritionist and health educator where she coached hundreds of clients to empower them with knowledge about their own health status, as well as coach them to create healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits.  

Do you have questions about supplements? Reach out to one of our experts, or take Persona’s free nutrition assessment, and learn exactly what you need to take your wellness to the next level.     

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.      

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.        


  1. Chao AM, Jastreboff AM, White MA, Grilo CM, Sinha R. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5373497/. Published April 2017. Accessed December 6, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.n 
  2. Oliver G, Wardle J. Perceived effects of stress on food choice. Physiol Behav. 1999;66(3):511-515. doi:10.1016/s0031-9384(98)00322-9 
  3. Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Sinha R. The effects of stress on physical activity and exercise. Sports Med.2014;44(1):81-121. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0090-5 
  4. Jiang C, Rau PLP. Working memory performance impaired after exposure to acute social stress: The evidence comes from ERPs. Neurosci Lett. 2017;658:137-141. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2017.08.054 
  5. Zari S, Alrahmani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:503-506. doi:10.2147/ccid.s148499 
  6. Hamilton LD, Meston CM. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2013;10(10):2443-2454. doi:10.1111/jsm.12249 

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