Stress is the body’s way of responding to any threat, demand or challenge. For many of us, stress is so common that it has become our way of life. Sometimes, stress can be a positive force motivating us to do our best and even keeping us safe when in danger.
However, when it occurs for a long period of time, it can have negative effects on our health, relationships, mood and quality of life. However, we can protect ourselves by understanding the way our body’s stress response works, being able to identify the symptoms and signs of stress overload and taking action to reduce its damaging effects. Continue reading to learn more:
The Body’s Stress Response
When we feel threatened, our nervous system responds by producing numerous stress hormones (e.g. cortisol, adrenaline etc.) that rouse our bodies for emergency action. Our senses suddenly become sharper, heart pounds faster, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten and breath quickens.
These physical changes enhance our focus, increase our stamina and strength and accelerate our reaction time. This is called the fight or flight response, and it’s our body’s way of protecting us.
When stress occurs within our comfort zone, it helps us stay alert, energetic, and focused. For instance, in emergency situations, it can save our lives by giving us extra strength to defend ourselves.
In addition, stress also helps us rise to meet challenges. It is what drives us to study for an exam or prepare for a presentation at work instead of watching TV or sleeping.
Many people often resort to fight or flight when responding to every minor stressor because that’s how they’ve been conditioned. However, because this kind of response interferes with other body functions, over time, it can lead to stress overload, causing harmful effects to both our physical and mental health.
Too much stress for instance, increases blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of stroke and heart attack, accelerates the aging process, and increases our vulnerability to many health problems including weight gain or loss, skin conditions, digestive problems, autoimmune diseases, sleep problems, depression etc.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms…