Stress is something that we are all aware of daily. But did you know that stress can be both positive and negative? Stress refers to a physical or psychosocial stimulus that causes bodily or mental tension. It is your perception of this stress that matters most.
General adaptation syndrome is how your body responds to stress. There are three stages to stress: the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage.
- The alarm stage is when the central nervous system is awakened, causing your body’s defenses to assemble. This SOS stage results in a fight-or-flight response.
- The resistance stage is when your body begins to repair itself and normalize heart rate, blood pressure, etc. After the initial shock of a stressful event, your body enters this recovery phase but remains on high alert for a while.
- The exhaustion stage is when activation in the first two stages continues over time, causing a breakdown in the balance within your body. This is when certain diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, may begin.
Along with weakening your immune system, prolonged stress can also increase your risk of disease and contribute to pre-existing conditions.
When you experience stress, a number of things occur:
- Your brain releases a hormone that triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, producing adrenaline and secreting cortisol.
- Cortisol is a steroid, which can weaken your immune system and the wound-healing process, increase bone loss, and decrease energy levels.
- Adrenaline increases your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It also causes fat tissue to break down and increases lactic acid in your muscles. With stimulation and increased adrenaline, your liver releases sugar into the blood stream for energy.
- The stimulation of your central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system causes salt retention, elevation of sugar in your blood stream, increased risk of blood clots, and can even lead to damage of your heart and kidneys.
With all of this stress on the body, your heart has to work a lot harder, which can cause it to become less effective and less efficient. Less blood will travel to your vital organs, which can limit their ability to function properly.
How can you lower your stress levels?
It’s all about changing your perception of the stress you encounter and learning how to better manage it. Deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, and even venting to a trusted friend can all help reduce the negative impacts stress can have on your body.