We now know that stress in our bodies can cause illness. Now, let’s understand which factors create stress in the first place and also understand the Effects of Stress on your body and behavior.
An injury, anxiety, toxins we ingest, lack of activity, pollution, and many more triggers stress.
Let understand the effects of stress on your body and recognize how its works, how you can start the healing process.
Stress can be emotional, mental, physical, chemical, or environmental. It can be a physical reality or created in our minds. It is not always a bad thing. it is simply the body’s response to changes that create taxing demands.
Know about Eustress and Distress
Dr. Selye’s suggested that there is a difference between eustress, which is a term for positive stress, and distress, which refers to negative stress.
Eustress is good stress which drives positive anticipation.
When we are expecting a child, starting a new job, roller-coaster ride, or planning a vacation this all is good stress.
Eustress is a type of stress that is actually important for us to have in our lives.
Without it, we would become bored at best and, in more serious cases, depressed.
We would begin to feel a lack of motivation to accomplish goals and a lack of meaning in life without enough eustress. It keeps us healthy and happy.
Distress, on the other hand, is negative stress and triggers inflammation and oxidative.
Distress occurs when we suffer the loss of a child or spouse, termination of a job, or divorce.
Both situations demand that the body change.
Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, Chest pain, and problems sleeping.
During times of changing environment or a perceived threat, our acute stress response is adaptive and allows us to cope and respond appropriately to survive the stress.
What is Acute Stress
An acute stress response in healthy individuals is a good thing. It is a normal process, and it is protective.
In the acute stress response, we see the activation of the nervous system and the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. The goal of the stress response is to release resources for the body to make energy for immediate use.
The body also starts to allocate these resources to specific organs and shuts down resources to other organs to help conserve energy.
The autonomic nervous system has two major components sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Neurotransmitters, or chemical signals, regulate the autonomic nervous system, which communicates to the nervous system to set off a chain of responses. They work in balance to affect many systems of the body, such as the heart, eyes, stomach, and genitals.
Role of sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is also called the fight-or-flight system. When our senses perceive a threat, the autonomic nervous system is triggered and activates the sympathetic nervous system.
That triggers the release of neurotransmitters, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, which then signal the cardiovascular system to increase blood pressure and heart rate.
The heart pumps faster and gets blood to all essential organs more quickly, this increases the blood flow to our skeletal muscles and our brain.
Our eyes dilate so we can see better in the dark. Our senses are more alert, and our muscles can endure.
Simultaneously, the parasympathetic, our rest and digestive system, is suppressed. This system is responsible for lowering blood pressure, lowering heart rate, and improving gut motility.
When there is an acute stressor, activities not essential for immediate survival, such as digestion, growth, and reproduction, are suspended.
How Cortisol Affects:
Another major pathway that becomes activated when stress is perceived comes when a signal in our brain triggers the release of cortisol (from the adrenal gland, the response center).
Cortisol has two main jobs. The first is to help make energy. It is responsible for breaking down fat and making sugar from storage sources. It also mobilizes fat from the periphery to the center to prepare it for use.
Its second role is to regulate the immune system. The role of cortisol is to balance inflammation with anti-inflammation. Our acute stress response allows for an increase in white cells—the infection fighters that go into tissues, such as our skin or other organs, and act as protection against those cells most likely to suffer damage during an insult.
Cortisol effect on immune system
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response.
It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. Our immune system recruits chemicals in our blood to help fight against trauma, infection, or injury.
One of the benefits of cortisol in acute stress is that it suppresses our pain response. When we are being chased, we cannot worry about the pain in our muscles or minor injuries. This is a protective benefit. It allows us to run despite an injury.
Cortisol is also known to be a catabolic hormone, which means it breaks down parts of our body, such as our muscle and bone, to provide nutrients to help us weather a stressful time.
Again, when we are running from a tiger, we need all of the energy we can muster to save our lives. Cortisol is responsible for keeping us moving in times of difficulty.
What does cortisol do
People often ask whether the cortisol is good or bad. Cortisol levels are a measure of stress.
Cortisol is cyclic in the body. When we first wake up in the morning, our cortisol levels are at their highest. Which helps to mobilize our body for the day.
A way to think about cortisol is that it gives us our “get-up-and-go” and allows us to be prepared for whatever the day holds. In a healthy state, these levels gradually decrease during the day.
However, in times of external tension and difficulty, cortisol levels shift, and they become elevated at times when they would normally decline.
This is necessary to activate our fight-or-flight response, to mobilize energy, and to allow us to meet the demands of a stressful day.
Chronic stress causes the body to stay in a constant state of alertness, despite being in no danger. Prolonged stress can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Other symptoms people may experience include anxiety, depression, sadness, anger, headache, skin problems, abdominal pain, back pain, and difficulty concentrating.
Environmental, nutritional, chemical, relationship stress, or genetic, causes chronic stress. Effects of prolonged stress can cause muscles breakdown, push the body to store energy as fat, and keep blood sugar abnormally high
In times of burnout, there is a significant imbalance in the immune response. You can see more inflammatory markers, decreased wound healing, and poorer response to infection.
Effects of Stress health
Chronic stress triggers the over-activation of the hormonal systems and subsequent formation of disease-causing free radicals. Free radicals are toxic to our cells and cause injury to cells.
Inflammation and oxidative stress can then cause chronic fatigue, depression, and excessive weight gain.
In addition, persistent elevation of cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause chronic disease states, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Chronic stress can lead to higher levels of anxiety, increased depression, and insomnia. Other functions such as cognition, memory, and reproduction are also adversely affected.
Remember that cortisol is about the balance between inflammation and anti-inflammation. This can cause a marked increase in inflammatory cells and can trigger an autoimmune disease in which the body actually starts attacking itself.
Now, in our current day-to-day lives—with constant motion, work stress, and overstimulation from our electronic devices and poor nutrition that causes body aches, lack of activity, and lack of sleep—our bodies are under constant stress.
And with that condition came illness, as it often does. Most of us don’t see how stress and overstimulation affect us until we have suffered a real injury.
Handle stress in healthy ways
Finding healthy ways to deal with stress can help lower cortisol levels and regulate your body’s stress response. Practicing relaxation techniques, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help you manage your stress and regulate your cortisol levels.
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