Read this infographic guide to discover what happens to the body when stress strikes.
Stress: A Definition
Put simply, stress is a feeling that’s created when you react to pressures arising from a situation or life event. There are two types of stress – distress and eustress. Distress encompasses anxiety that is brought on by a negative experience. Eustress, on the other hand, is beneficial in nature and gives a person the extra push they need to succeed in a nerve-wracking situation.
How Does The Stress Response Work?
When we experience a difficult experience, our brains trigger numerous events which are collectively known as “the stress response”. The aim of this is to prepare you to meet the situation with heightened alertness and focus so you can perform well under pressure. The stages of the stress response are as follows:
- The brain produces a distress signal.
- Adrenaline is released throughout the body.
- This triggers the “fight or flight response” survival mechanism.
- This prompts several physiological changes. Your body generates extra energy by pushing extra blood sugar and fats into the bloodstream. Heartbeats are accelerated to push blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs. You start breathing more quickly to inhale as much oxygen as possible. This extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing sensory alertness.
- The brain then floods the body with cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) which can briefly modify certain bodily functions (e.g. the immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems) which it judges to be hampering survival.
How Stress Affects the Body
Stress can influence how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically. Some common physical symptoms of stress include headaches, fatigue, and stomach-aches. These vary from person to person. Stress also lowers your immune system and this can make you more vulnerable to catching colds and infections.
A little stress every now and then is a normal part of life and is not something to be concerned about. However, research reveals that repeated exposure to stress over a sustained period can wreak havoc on the body. This is because recurring activation of the fight or flight response puts enormous pressure on the body. In fact, long-term chronic stress has found to be a contributing factor to a wide range of serious health issues from depression to gastrointestinal disorders.
Managing Your Stress In A Healthy Way
While it is not possible to completely remove stress from your life, it is possible to develop some techniques that will enhance your coping skills. Not only will this boost your overall health, but it may also stop you from reverting to destructive behaviours in times of trouble. Some healthy stress management techniques include:
- Breathing exercises
- Mindful meditation
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Socialise with friends
- Speak to a trained professional when self-help techniques fail
If you would like to become more informed about the science of stress, then you should certainly browse through the below infographic from Study Medicine Europe. This fascinating guide features some statistics about stress and gives a simple overview of the many ways in which stress can negatively affect our health.
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