Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Body's Reaction To Stress

The last few weeks in my Wellness Wednesday posts I've been discussing the subtask of stress management. In case you've missed it, here are the posts in this mini-series:

Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 1- Healthy Coping}
Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 2-Eustress}

I thought it might be helpful to explain what actually happens when we get stressed. When we start to feel stressed, our body needs to increase its cardiovascular output in order to bring oxygen and energy to certain muscles. Our body puts out a large amount of stress hormones, which can lead to the following progression:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Accumulation of plaque on the inner lining of blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks or cardiac death
  • Neuropsychological changes in affect and behavior
Stress is no joke, but we tend to brush it off, refuse to take the time to deal with it, or even chase after it. During stressful times, our immune system can be negatively impacted because:
  • immune organs shrink
  • disease-fighting cells can be decreased in both number and function
Then there are the changes that we tend to easily recognize when we start feeling stressed:
  • Our appetite can change
    • Some lose their appetite and feel sick
    • Others eat turn to junk food because they crave the simple carbs
    • Either way we aren't giving our body what it needs to function & remain healthy
  • Irritability increases (which can deeply affect relationships)
  • Irrational thoughts become more frequent (leading to increase in anxiety & depressed feelings)
So let me say this again: Stress is no joke! I know it's easy to get into a cycle where we get busy and overwhelmed, and the last thing we think of doing is taking time out of our crazy schedule to cope with the stress in a healthy way. When we're in stress mode, the thought of taking energy to decrease the stress is far from our minds. However, we need to do that which goes against what we naturally want to do: we need to fight the stress and cope with it in healthy ways in order to keep ourselves well both physically and mentally.

Part of the problem is that we get so focused on stress that we sometimes ignore the physical cues that our body sends out, and we find ourselves drowning in stress without realizing it. Here's my challenge to you: Learn the physical cues your body sends out so you can deal with it at the beginning instead of finding yourself drowning in it.

Now it's your turn:
How does your body respond to stress? Does it ever seem like you're too busy to deal with stress? What might the results of this be? 


  1. My body DEFINITELY reacts to stress! The biggest clues for me: I get a cold, or my skin breaks out, I get headaches and suffer from insomnia and depression. It sucks when things are so stressful. Exercise helps a bit, but doesn't cure it.

  2. Everyone face problem due to stress, Actually Stress invites many diseases to attack on us.

    Early symptoms are headache, dark-circles around eyes, poor appetite

    Stress Management Questionnaire