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Health and Fitness News

What Happens When You’re Sad

How grief affects your health.

The death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, divorce, a cancer diagnosis, or moving to a new home. This is just a short list of why people grieve. There are hundreds of reasons to grieve, some large and some small. No matter who you are, grief will affect you now and then. If you’re like many, you’ve likely grieved many losses during the pandemic. Whatever you’re grieving, maybe you’ve come to an acceptance of it by now, or maybe you’re still dealing with anger or depression in your grieving process.

Grief brings a variety of emotions, not just sadness and tears. Many studies have been done on the effect emotions have on physical health. Here are just a few ways grief can negatively impact your physical health.

Insomnia and Fatigue

Grief drains you of energy and makes you feel zapped. A good night’s rest would help you feel better, but sleep troubles are common when you’re grieving. It may be that you can’t fall asleep, are restless through the night, or that you wake and can’t fall back asleep.

Unfortunately, poor sleep doesn’t just affect your nighttime routine. It impacts your waking hours as well. Without deep, quality sleep, you’re more likely to deal with fatigue, irritability, mood swings, a lack of concentration, and even weight gain.

Appetite Changes

Many people turn to food as a coping mechanism when they’re grieving. Food can offer comfort and distraction from your emotional pain, but it only lasts so long. The weight you put on, however, can last a lifetime. Don’t be surprised if you gain a few pounds after going through a loss.

Some people, on the other hand, have the opposite problem. They lose their appetite while they grieve. This may lead to weight loss.

Increased Aches and Pains

Someone who is grieving may find they’re more sensitive to aches and pains. The negative emotions of grief, depression, and loneliness are linked to a decrease in serotonin and norepinephrine, two brain chemicals that work to improve mood and relieve pain. In addition, stress hormones can increase muscle tension.

What’s the result of these changes? You may experience more headaches, joint pain, or back pain than you used to.

High Levels of Inflammation

Intense or prolonged grief is associated with high amounts of unwanted inflammation in the body. Over time, such inflammation can contribute to a variety of health conditions. Arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and even cancer are linked to inflammation. Additionally, inflammation can worsen any pre-existing medical conditions.

Lowered Immune Function

After suffering a loss, your stress levels can skyrocket. In addition to making you feel frazzled, stress affects your immune system. It does this by triggering the release of cortisol, a hormone that wreaks havoc on your body over time.
One negative effect of cortisol is reduced immune function. Because of this, you’re more likely to catch the cold or flu while grieving.

High Blood Pressure

Long-term stress and high levels of cortisol can also harm your heart and circulatory system. Sadly, those who are grieving have a higher risk of heart disease, an elevated heart rate, blood clots, and high blood pressure.

Broken Heart Syndrome

While not common, it is possible to die of a broken heart. Intense or sudden grief can be so hard on the heart muscle that a form of heart disease develops. The hormones that are produced during grief couple with such strong emotion that it causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and decreased heart function. In other words, such grief feels like a heart attack. Most people fully recover in days or weeks, though it can rarely be fatal.

About Training with Mr. America
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