Posted on October 28, 2019 by Origins
Our bodies create and release stress hormones through reactions of the nervous system. In this article, we will take a journey through that process so that we can more fully understand the stress response and its impact on our minds and bodies.
It Begins in the Brain
We’ve all experienced stressful situations and notice the immediate impact on our bodies, whether we’re watching a scary movie, feeling emotionally triggered by an event, or we hear a loud noise. Our hearts start racing and we enter what’s known as “fight or flight” mode, which is our nervous systems’ response to stress.
Various parts of our brains and bodies are in constant communication with each other and with our external stimuli. When we’re in a stressful or dangerous situation, our senses send signals to the amygdala, which sends a signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, which communicates with the nervous system, then releases stress hormones into the body. The adrenal glands then pump epinephrine, a stress hormone through the bloodstream, signaling the “fight or flight” response. This causes increased heart rate, blood pressure rises, and our bodies experience all of the intense physiological symptoms of stress.
The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems
These two parts of the nervous system are the cornerstones of the stress response in the body and mind. The sympathetic nervous system tells us to “go” and aids in the “fight or flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” mechanism in the body, which signals us to rest and slow down when needed. These two parts of the autonomic nervous system are always working together and receiving signals from the brain. Stress wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies and it’s empowering to know the route of these intricate processes.
Living with chronic low-level stress is much like a running on a motor that is idling for too long. After a while, this contributes to health problems associated with chronic stress. Persistent surges of epinephrine can increase blood pressure and raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. Elevated levels of cortisol create physiological changes that inadvertently contribute to weight gain.
Fortunately, people can learn techniques to counter the stress response. Here are some options for dealing with chronic stress in your everyday life.
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