21 Mar Stress on your body: what’s happening?
Remember our example of stress with the tiger and the fight, flight or freeze reaction that occurs?
Our fight-or-flight response is our body’s nervous system reacting to a stressful event. During a stressful event, our body produces larger quantities of those chemicals mentioned earlier: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
In the previous post, you learned about what happens to your brain, but those chemicals also affect your body. Here’s what happens:
• Your heart rate and blood pressure increase to prepare your muscles (for the flight response)
• Your breathing becomes more rapid
• You sweat more (this is energy being expressed)
• You are more alert (we do not sleep while defending against a tiger)
All these factors help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation. But as parts of your body prepare for flight, fight or freeze, other parts of your body slow down. Such as:
• Your digestive system (this is not a need during a crisis, so energy is sent elsewhere)
• Your immune system (no time to fight illness, fighting the dinosaur is a bigger threat at the moment!)
Your body naturally diverts attention away from long-term health to immediate concerns. All resources are concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness and muscle-use during a stress response.
This is all good for a short-term stress (escaping the tiger) but over the long-term, you would not want your body to continually be stressed. You might get ill (from your weakened immune system) and you might have stomach problems (from your digestive system shutting down) or you may make really poor decisions over and over again from your brain being in reactive mode.
Stress over a long period is not good for your body or brain!
Check out the next post to see what stress overload can do…
How does your body feel when you are stressed? What do you notice the most?