Anxiety Can Make Your Sweat Smell Worse, Because Life Is Cruel

Anxiety literally stinks, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about.

As host Cristen Conger explains in the “Stuff Mom Never Told You” video above, the sweat that seeps out of your pores when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious actually smells worse than the stuff you secrete while exercising.

Why, oh why, does this happen? The sweat that’s produced by anxiety is triggered by different functions in the body than regular sweat, Conger explains. It’s made up of water, proteins and fats, while exercise sweat is mostly just water. Bacteria then feeds off this nutrient-filled sweat, causing a less-than-desirable odor.

Conger says scientists suspect smelly stress sweat was actually beneficial back in more primitive times, when the stench served as a warning to others that something could be wrong.

Nowadays, smelling bad doesn’t seem to serve anyone. But rather than adding smelly sweat to your list of things to stress about, take a deep breath: There are many proactive steps you can take to dial down your anxiety and, in turn, the pungency of your eau d’anxiété.

For one, you can start with exercise. (Yes, that kind of sweat has an odor of its own, but we recommend bathing afterward.) Getting your heart rate up has been proven to combat anxiety and depression, boost your mood and also help bolster clear thinking.

Beyond the gym, therapy, meditation and sleep are three other researched-back techniques to calm your insides and better prepare you to tackle whatever it is that’s contributing to your nerves. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.

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