- Mental Health
How Stress Affects Our Bodies
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.
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.