What is Stress Really Doing to Your Body?
Stress is practically impossible to avoid, especially in our fast-paced society. Stress takes its toll on the body and has greater affects than many people may be aware of. When a person experiences stress, all of the senses become very focused and aware. The thyroid releases hormones causing metabolism to speed up. Heart rate increases and breathing becomes more rapid and often moves to the upper chest. Digestion and sex hormones shut down so energy can be put to better use. The pancreas releases sugar and insulin into the body, which helps the body mobilize for fight or flight. The fight or flight response is one that has been ingrained in human beings for many years. This was necessary for survival when we were hunting for food and running from angry predators. This response is often not functional for the stress we experience on a daily basis. The response is very extreme and often more extreme than is necessary to cope with a situation.
Responding to daily stresses in this way can lead to a variety of problems. People that are chronically experiencing the stress response physiologically often become less productive over time. The immune system is impaired by constant high levels of adrenaline pumping through the body. People experience a wide variety of physical problems ranging from increased migraines or backaches, to stroke, heart attack or high blood pressure. It is not clear why under stress, some people experience migraines and others digestive issues and still others heart attack. I think that we are all made up differently and probably due to genetics and personal history, we all have a different part of our body that struggles most under stress. Some people may have multiple symptoms, some more profound than others.
Stress can be good or bad. We most often think of the hard, scary or difficult things in our lives as sources of stress, but when evaluating stress levels, it is important to consider the good and even joyful things as well. Having a baby or getting married may be considered wonderful things, yet they add to the stress level of the person experiencing the event. Chronic daily stressors that are too much may cause an overactive nervous system as well. Experiencing increased heart rate, hyper-arousal, and rapid breath can become a “normal” state of being for some people that can result in debilitating disorders such as migraines, as the body’s way of forcing the person to slow down.
So taking some time each day to slow down, take a few deep breaths and calm your nervous system can go a long way towards improving overall health and well-being. Activities like meditation, yoga or deep breathing help slow your heart rate, slow your thoughts and help your body return to a state of relaxation where true rejuvenation can take place.