Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by change or an unexpected event that your heart began to race, your body felt tense, or your breathing was faster? Chances are you felt stress.
Most people feel stress at some point in their life. Why is it so common? Stress is your body’s response to a challenging event, unexpected outcome, uncertainty, and change. It’s our physiological reaction to stressors. Weddings, health scares, job loss, break ups, and many other life events can lead to stress.
Stress is not all bad. Like many other bodily functions and emotions, stress is a natural response. When we experience (or perceive) a threat our sympathetic nervous system – also known as our fight or flight response takes over to protect us. It prepares us to take action (or inaction – freeze) to keep us safe. Hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol are released through our body, our heart beats faster to push blood to our muscles and vital organs, our lungs expand to take in more breaths increasing our alertness, and our pupils dilate so that we can focus our attention and mobilize our muscles to prepare to take action. These functions help protect us from threats in the environment. For example, when a vehicle is fast approaching, we can quickly jump out of the way without even thinking. Our stress response can help us focus and execute a task at hand. This is why athletes or even students during exams may actually benefit from a stress response.
Like most things, however, in excess stress can become problematic. Our bodies are not made to sustain a stress response over prolonged periods of time. Chronic stress or repeated exposure to stressors can lead to overactivation of our stress response system resulting in a host of health problems including heart disease and anxiety.
So how do you manage stress? Read the next blog post: 3 Tips for Managing Stress.
Note: This post is intended to provide general information. It is not medical advice or a substitute for seeking your own medical advice. Consulting with your own healthcare professional regarding your specific situation is needed to properly diagnose and treat any health issue.