Stress is a feeling we all experience when we are tested, challenged or overwhelmed. It’s a physical response connected like a network that travels throughout your entire body. It’s called the autonomic nervous system which can quickly allocate blood resources from your organs to your muscles and back depending on your emotional state. A familiar term used for this response is “fight or flight” the technical term is the sympathetic nervous system. This system when activated switches us from the parasympathetic state we are in on a normal basis.
A quick shot of stress can be useful, triggering a fast response to calm it down, like the butterflies you feel before public speaking. The system kicks into action to help you fight through those nervous feelings to accomplish the presentation, or as you jerk the wheel because of that close-call car accident you just avoided, the heart-pounding nervous feeling you experience after is the “flight or fight” system. However, when stress is activated too often and/or for long periods of time, that moment of fight-or-flight stress response has the power to cause damage to many cells throughout your body which can indirectly affect organs.
The autonomic nervous system exacerbates hormones in a sympathetic state, which acts on receptors to properly control blood flow throughout the body. The key hormones exacerbated are cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. As these hormones attach to the receptors, blood flow will increase or decrease in the area. In other words, the system acts like valves to control blood flow.
For instance; if a bear is racing towards you in the woods, it’s not as important to digest the chicken salad you ate for lunch, as it has become more important to RUN! The sympathetic nervous system is activated for self-preservation.
Learn to Manage Your Stress
Chronic stress can inhibit the function of immune cells, make you more susceptible to infections and slow the rate you heal. This stress disruption to your health will show signs including headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, acne, muscle tightness and sexual dysfunction. If you wish to enjoy the full length of your life, however long that is, it’s crucial that you learn to manage your stress to keep the sympathetic nervous system from being activated too often.
The hormone Cortisol which is exacerbated by stress is known to be anabolic to fat. This means high levels of cortisol will help you gain more fat. This should be more than enough reason to start seeking ways to control your level of stress.
Life will always be filled with stressful situations, the length of time it last will be determined by your ability to manage it.