bodily reactions to stress

January 25, 2011 by admin  
Filed under About Stress

4 bodily reactions to stress

We often talk about stress and our body’s reactions to it. Do we really understand what is going on when we experience a stressor in our lives? Do we know what our body’s response to a stressor is and, more importantly, why it is responding that way? To start to be able to answer these questions, we need to look at, and hopefully understand, what our four bodily reactions are to stress.

Whenever we experience a stressor, or event, our body goes through a whole series of chemical reactions. Our physical response to a stressor is governed by the autonomic nervous system, which is, in turn controlled by the hypothalamus. What a lot of us do not understand is that stress is a physical response that is experienced as an emotion. The form that the physical response takes varies on the nature of the event. This means that in some situations, we may feel frightened and overwhelmed, while in others we feel inspired and exhilarated.

When we experience a stressor our hypothalamus sends a signal to the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland, both of these respond by stimulating our bodies organs to change their normal activities in the following way:

1. Heart rate raises, blood pressure rises, your blood vessels constrict, blood sugar levels rise and blood flow is directed away from your extremities.

2. Your breathing becomes deeper and faster and air passages dilate, this allows more air to enter your lungs.

3. Your digestion process stops and you sweat more

4. Your adrenal glands will secrete adrenaline which in turn stimulates your heart and other organs.

When all of these events take place in our body it means that our body is prepared to deal with the stressor. When viewed all together, these responses produce a heightened mental and physical state of alertness and readiness for action. This is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response.

It is interesting to note that whether we choose to confront a stressor or run away from it, our biological response is going to be the same. This biological response is also the same regardless of the nature of the stressor, whether you are confronted by a man in a dark alley with a gun or going for your driving exam, you body will respond to the stressor the same way by stimulating your body to respond to the stressor.

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