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How Stress Affects Our Bodies

Updated on August 6, 2015

According to Medical News Today, anything that poses a challenge or threat to our well being is a stress. So let’s say your husband comes home from work all excited because he received a promotion, but that promotion entails moving half way around the world, that may send your heart racing and blood pressure soaring. In other words, you feel stressed. If, on the other hand, you have always wondered what it would be like to live in that part of the world, then you may experience the same symptoms, but this time it’s a good type of stress because it spikes your adrenalin and puts you into action mode. In other words, a situation is stressful depending on how you view it.

The fight or flight response

Our bodies are equipped with certain resources that prepare us for either fight or flight. Let’s say you’re walking around the block and a huge dog bounds out at you, barking ferociously, your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, producing higher amounts of cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. You begin to sweat, your heart rate and breathing increase, your pupils dilate and your muscles become engorged with blood. Before you know it, you have scaled a fence (taken flight) and are on your way to safety. It’s this kind of response that allows a mother to fight off someone who is trying to attack her children, or causes a firefighter to rush into a burning building to rescue someone.

Dealing with fight or flight

Once the stress is no longer present, our system goes back to normal. Our breathing subsides, our heart rate returns to normal, the sweat dries and our muscles relax. However, if the stress remains, and we are unable to scale that wall or fight off the attacker, what then? Unless we can learn to channel our fight or flight response into effective coping mechanisms, we become edgy, anxious, aggressive and react in ways that are counter-productive.

Effects of stress

A prolonged stressful situation can be compared to the build-up of steam in a pressure cooker. Eventually, the lid blows off and that’s the end of your pressure cooker. In the case of our bodies, we may manifest various symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, indigestion, irregular or racing heartbeat and teeth-grinding, among other things. Our mental health may be compromised and we may exhibit poor concentration, frustration, fear, anger, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression. Stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and immune disorders may result.

If you find yourself in a constant state of stress, you should see your doctor or mental health practitioner.


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    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, Pamela. You're probably right, but one thing I do know is that whenever I feel stressed, that's when I come down with the flu and other little aches and pains.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      Excellent information on stress. I believe stress causes more diseases than the medical community has fully recognized. This is a very informative hub.

    • elija_god profile image

      elija_god 6 years ago from Abuja, Nigeria

      Thanks for the info!

    • profile image

      Sunkenclouds 6 years ago

      Good stuff, keeps crazy mofos from breaking their grilfriends belongings and saves money

    • Health Talk profile image

      Health Talk 7 years ago from World

      Great piece of advice thanks for sharing.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, amillar. It's good to know that we can overcome stress instead of letting it overcome us,

    • amillar profile image

      amillar 7 years ago from Scotland, UK

      This is very useful information quildon - and even more so during these worrisome times. Up and useful.

    • profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, suziecat7. I admire Type A people, but like you said, even you can get stressed out.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I'm a naturally stressed out person - type A - always on the go. It's time to heed your advice. Great Hub.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, KoffeeKlatch

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great information and advice.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, mathair. I hope you're managing your stress better now.

    • mathair profile image

      mathair 7 years ago from Ireland

      I have personally experienced stress related migrane and it took me a long time to fully recover - It is important that people are aware of the long term damage stress can do to their bodies - Well done.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, mylife

    • mylife=adventure profile image

      Casey Coulter 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great information thanks for sharing!

      Stay Happy and True - Mylife