Is stress bad for your mind, your body, and your wellbeing?

The answer, of course, is yes. But why?

When we’re in a stressed state, we release different hormones, predominately cortisol, which can have a negative effect on our body composition because cortisol instructs the liver to secrete glucose into the bloodstream (in effect to get us ready for action because it thinks we’re in a threat state). Then we’ve got elevated glucose in the blood – which is not great for our energy levels or our body composition (our weight management). But stress can also have an effect on the entire body from top to tail. It can switch on and off genes that we don’t necessarily want switched on or off, it can significantly affect our overall health through our genetic expression, which I think is fascinating!

It also affects the nervous system – the autonomic nervous system. There are two branches to this nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic.

Sympathetic is our fight, flight, freeze response. That’s our threat state, and when we’re stressed, we’re in a sympathetic dominant state.

Parasympathetic is our rest and digest, and that’s the state we want to be in most of the time, but not all of the time. It’s important to move from a sympathetic to parasympathetic to sympathetic to parasympathetic dominant state. That’s what we were designed to do.

As ancestral people, we weren’t always relaxed and chilled out by the campfire, but we weren’t always being attacked and chasing predators either, so our body is used to working between those two types of nervous system states. But the issue is when the stress becomes prolonged and elevated. It’s fine to be stressed some of the time, and that stress could be a deadline, a very stressful event, a health scare, or it could be a workout. There are different types of stress. A workout puts us into that stress state, but it’s hermetic – it has something that could be bad for us, but in a small dose has a positive effect.

In order to change our physiology, we want to take ourselves into a stress state through exercise (as an example) every now and again provided we get suitable recovery. It’s ok to have stress if it’s not prolonged, and it’s not elevated for long periods of time, and you build in enough recovery; That really is the key.

Most people I speak to, or most people I observe, don’t get enough recovery, so there’s too much stress and not enough recovery. If you can try and make that stress spikier by building in lots of recovery in between, you’re going to find that it has a far less detrimental effect on your health.

To summarise, stress is very bad for the body if it’s prolonged and elevated. It can change our gene expression. It can affect the nervous system, which in turn, effects just about the whole body. So, manage your stress well; meditation, movement, exercise, good food, time to yourself – all of these things are really crucial. Have a look at your diary, see where you can put in microbreaks as well just to take your foot off the gas every now and again.

If you have something in your life that’s overwhelmingly stressful, have a look at it. Does that need to be there? Is that a person you need to be around? Is that a job you need to be doing? Is this something you really enjoy or are you doing it because you thought you were good at it or thought you should be doing it?

What’s your Health IQ?

If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared. Why not talk to us and see how we can help.

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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.


  • Leanne is an award-winning entrepreneur and the founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. She delivered a TEDx talk on 'Why fitness is more important than weight', is the author of bestselling books 'Remove the Guesswork' and 'Rise and Shine', and hosts a podcast called ’Remove the Guesswork‘. Leanne is the founder of Bodyshot Performance, an award-winning health and wellbeing company. Bodyshot Performance work with businesses of up to 500 people who want to create a culture of energy, vitality and performance through the business and position wellbeing as a competitive advantage. Bodyshot intersect the latest science and technology to provide unique solutions to the challenge of wellbeing in the workplace that have a direct impact on the bottom line. Our clients have won awards for wellbeing and recognise it directly improves employee engagement and retention and attracts talent into the business.  We also work with chronically stressed or burned out professionals to get you back in control of your health and able to do the things you want to do in life. My expertise is around health, fitness and wellbeing, specifically focusing on sleep, mental health, energy, body composition, digestion and fitness. I host a popular podcast on iTunes called ’Remove the Guesswork ‘, and in November 2016 I delivered a TEDx talk on 'Why fitness is more important than weight'. I’m the author of the bestselling books 'Remove the Guesswork' and 'Rise and Shine' and I regularly speak to corporates on health and wellbeing. My personal values are to live truthfully, considerately and to "suck all the marrow out of life" as Thoreau said. I support the charity Diversity Role Models which works to combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. I recently completed the world’s toughest ski race to raise £10,125 for Alzheimer's Research as my father-in-law was profoundly ill with Alzheimers, and I am on a constant mission to find ways to live in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. I love sport, fitness, reading, gardening, business, podcasting, and being with my cat and our scampish little rescue dog, Kami from Romania.