Managing Stress

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Understanding The Physiology Of Stress

Physiology Of Stress

Though many of us do suffer from stress, not many of us know what exactly happens to our body during such stressful situations. We are also not completely in the know as to how our body and mind responds to such stress related situations.

It is important to have some basic knowledge about this because it will help us to handle stress better. In our journey of life we are encountered with different situations almost on a daily basis.

Each such situation has a different emotional and physiological reaction and when such reactions are beyond the normal limit, we develop a condition that is known as stress.

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We should understand the fact that stress is normal psychological and physiological response to such threats or abnormal situations.

It is a natural way to react to things that could either by physical in nature or psychological in nature. Such responses help us to deal with the situation as the body or mind things it best.

  • However, when we have such stress responses there are a chain of reactions happening both in our body and mind. The body begins work to minimize all unnecessary in such stress situations. It is akin to the body switching off many unwanted functions and put itself on a survival mode. During such situations all the functions and energy is devoted to fighting the physical or physiological threat.
  • This state is achieved with the help of ANS or autonomic nervous system. This is nothing but a non conscious response to such stress situations. It happens automatically, and the main object is to fight the situation and survive and overcome it. The response is controlled by a region which is called the hypothalamus situated in the brain. This region of the brain helps release a number of corticosteroid hormones from the adrenal glands into the blood. The main hormones that are released are epinephrine, cortisol and norepinephrine.
  • Once these hormones have been released this is followed by increased levels of activities in the central nervous system. This result in increased activity of the heart leading be increased blood pressure. All these activities lead to increased metabolic activity and blood flow to the lower extremities and the muscles. Increase of fatty acids and glucose is also noticeable in such stress situations.

There are also other physiological manifestations such as dilations of pupils to sharpen eyesight and allowing more light to flow into the eyes. The body temperature is also regulated with the help of the sweat glands. All these manifestations point to the fact that the body is ready to fight or run away from such stressful situations.

When your body and mind is faced with such stressful situations, many bodily functions are temporarily suspended or minimized. These include our immune system, reproduction system, digestive system. Even the kidney function and intestinal tract functions get reduced in such situations.

The main reason for all these happenings is to ensure that we are effective in a state of survival. This helps in increasing ours alertness, speed, strength and sharpness of our emotional faculty. The best part is that all these happen within a matter of few seconds. Once the stressful situation abates the body and brains helps us to reach what is known as the parasympathetic nervous system or PNS.

However, if the stress persists for a long period of time or keeps reappearing every now and then, the body enters what is known as a state of chronic stress. The body tries to give a fitting reply to such stress situations but when it becomes a chronic state of affairs, overloading takes place and various functions start failing leading to different types of health problems.

There are different responses to different stress situations and it would be worthwhile to have a look at some over the next few lines:

  • For example when you are driving and constantly putting your foot on the gas you are responding to a stress situation that is very agitating to your mind and body. On the other hand, if you are putting your foot on the brake you are trying to withdraw from the stressful situation that is in front of you. If by chance you are putting your foot both on the accelerator and the brakes you could be in a situation where you are giving as frozen response.
  • Response to stress depends on a variety of factors such as age, sex, general health condition and so on. While stress most of the time is temporary or at best acute in nature, there are many people who suffer from chronic stress.

People suffering from chronic stress respond to such situations a long time after the event has happened. This could lead to our body not being able to cope up with such situations which could lead to complications such as heart strokes, arthritis, depression, skin conditions, and other such problems.

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