We hear the word ‘stress’ frequently these days and many see it as an inevitable part of modern life. Some people seem to feel guilty if they aren’t stressed, wondering if they aren’t working hard enough.
What happens to our body when we are stressed? When the body detects danger of some sort it prepares itself for action. The hormones cortisol and adrenaline are secreted into the blood stream to allow the body to deal with the threat. Norepinephrine is also released.
Cortisol is a hormone involved in regulating blood pressure, metabolising glucose and releasing insulin to maintain blood sugar levels. It is also important in maintaining the body’s immune system. Cortisol has become known as ‘the stress hormone’ because it is secreted into the blood stream in above normal amounts in times of stress.
• Increased blood pressure
• Increased heart rate
• Increased rate of breathing
• Energy to be diverted from important bodily functions including digestion, growth and immunity.
• Increases heart rate
• Increases blood pressure
• Supplies a burst of energy
Norepinephrine helps the body react to a stressful situation by
• Increasing awareness
• Making one feel more alert
• Increasing mental focus
• Helping divert blood flow to the muscles
If the stress is short term these actions work well to help a person look after him or herself. If you have to physically run away from a threat or put all your energy into fighting it off it is good to have all your resources available to do so.
In modern times much of the stress experienced is from annoyances such as driving in heavy traffic, dealing with a heavy work load, juggling conflicting responsibilities and worrying about money. Some of these stresses tend to be long term. When the body is stressed over a long period of time the constant release of stress hormones can cause problems.
Long term stress can lead to problems including
• High blood pressure
• Stomach ulcers
• Blood sugar imbalances
• Poorly functioning immune system
• Sleep problems
• Memory problems
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
People react differently to stress. Some people secrete more cortisol when stressed than others. Events that stress one person may not stress another or to a different degree.
Stress can't be avoided altogether. Even an event we have been looking forward to or something which will improve our life can place us under stress. If stress is ongoing it is advisable to address it before it has a major negative impact on your health.