Updated: Aug 6, 2021
What is Stress? What happens in the body when you are stressed?
Stress is a positive response altering us to danger to respond with motivation and focus. Usually, when the pressure settles, the body rebalances itself, and we start to feel calm again.
But when we experience stress far too often without any relief; or when your negative feelings overwhelm your ability to cope, then the stress response becomes a problem. Continuous activation of the nervous system – experiencing the “stress response” – causes wear and tear on the body.
Respiratory system When we are stressed, the respiratory system is immediately affected. We tend to breathe harder and more quickly to distribute oxygen-rich blood around our body. Although this is not an issue for most of us, it could be a problem for people with asthma or other breathing issues who may feel short of breath and struggle to take in enough oxygen. It can also cause quick and shallow breathing, where minimal air is taken in, which can lead to hyperventilation – to its extreme you can pass out. However, This is more likely if someone is prone to anxiety and panic attacks.
Immune system Stress wreaks havoc on our immune system. Cortisol is released in your body suppressing the immune system and inflammatory pathways. Therefore, unchecked stress which continues over a long period causes you to become more susceptible to infections and chronic inflammatory conditions. Your ability to fight off illness is greatly reduced. The musculoskeletal system is also affected. Our muscles tense up, which is the body’s natural way of protecting ourselves from injury and pain. Repeated muscle tension can cause bodily aches and pains, and when it occurs in the shoulders, neck, and head it may result in tension headaches and migraines.
In severe cases of stress Musculoskeletal pain can develop. This type of pain refers to pain in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. You can feel this pain in just one area of the body, such as your back. You can also have it throughout your body if you have a widespread condition like fibromyalgia. Cardiovascular effects When stress is acute the heart rate and blood pressure increase, but they return to normal once the stress has passed. If severe stress is repeatedly experienced, or if stress becomes chronic (over a long period of time) it can cause damage to blood vessels and arteries. This increases the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
Endocrine system The endocrine system plays an important role in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, and reproductive processes. Stress plays havoc with our metabolism. The hypothalamus is located in the brain and plays a key role in connecting the endocrine system with the nervous system. Stress signals coming from the hypothalamus trigger the release of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and then blood sugar (glucose) is produced by the liver to provide you with energy to deal with the stressful situation. Most people reabsorb the extra blood sugar when the stress subsides, but for some people there is an increased risk of diabetes.
Stomach Upsets Stress can have some unpleasant gastrointestinal effects. The ability of our intestines to absorb nutrients from our food may be reduced. We may experience stomach pain, bloating and nausea, diarrhoea, or constipation.
Reproductive system There can be problems with our reproductive system too. For men, chronic stress may affect the production of testosterone and sperm. It may even lead to erectile dysfunction or impotence. For women, stress can the menstrual cycle and increase menstrual symptoms.
Stress and your mind Has anyone told you about ITS ALL IN YOUR MIND? Well, that is partly true! Stress has noticeable effect on your emotional well-being. It is normal to experience high and low moods in daily living, but when you are stressed you may feel more tired, have mood swings, or feel more irritable than usual. Stress causes hyperarousal, which means we may have difficulty falling or staying asleep and experience restless nights. Stress impairs concentration, attention, learning and memory. Poor sleep can lead to chronic health problems, depression, and obesity.
Manage your stress! So, learn to manage your stress, before it manages you. It’s all about keeping it in check-, and I hope this course is helping you to do that so far. Some stress in life is normal – and a little stress is OK because it can help us to feel alert, motivated, focused, energetic and even excited. Take positive actions outlined in this course to channel this energy effectively to perform better, achieving more and feeling great!
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