Your sympathetic ANS is responsible for your “flight or fight” reaction when presented with a stressful situation. When you are presented with a stressful situation, your hypothalamus releases a chemical messenger that travels to your pituitary gland, which is then stimulated to produce adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). The (ACTH) then travels through you blood stream to your adrenal gland, where it stimulates the outer layer of your adrenal gland in order to produce corticoids. Corticoids help to acquire from energy stores within your body. Simultaneously, the hypothalamus activates the inner portion of the adrenal gland, which produces epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. Adrenaline causes your bodies physiological responses to become heightened for a short period of time as your body braces for action.
- Heart rate increases and heart increases its strength of contraction to pump more blood
- Blood pressure rises
- Digestion slows so the much needed blood may be diverted to muscles
- Salivation and mucous secretion decreases - the result is a "cotton mouth" feeling
- Pupils dilate so that you have a more sensitive vision
- All of your senses - sight, hearing, smell, and taste - become more acute, ready to identify any threats
- Sweating increases to flush waste and to cool down the body
In a person who is at a healthy stress level, after their sympathetic ANS has taken action, their parasympathetic ANS kicks in causing them to relax by decreasing heart rate and relaxing blood vessels. But when a person is experiencing a constant high level of stress, their sympathetic ANS is always in drive, causing them to be unable to relax. When your parasympathetic ANS is unable to take control you begin to experience high levels of stress and your body loses the ability to relax in-between these periods.
Although a healthy level of stress can be beneficial to the body, when stress becomes too much and the body begins to face negative mental, emotional and physiological affects, and stress becomes “distress.” As distress related tension begins to build, your body can develop a variety of negative side-effects. Since the effects of stress related hormones are designed to be short-term, when the body experiences them for long periods of time it can cause long term health problems.
A recent study showed that “43% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.” Some of the more common side effects from stress are headaches, upset stomachs, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Research also shows that these short-term side effects experienced over a period of time can cause illness or a worsening of an existing condition. Similarly, people who experience high levels of stress are at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems later in life as well as permanently higher blood pressure.
Common Effects of stress…
On the body…
· Muscles Pain
· Chest Pain
· Stomach Upset
· Sleep Problems
On your mood…
· Lack of Focus
On your Behavior…
· Under Eating
· Angry Outbursts
· Social Withdrawal
· Drug or Alcohol Abuse
As you can see your body is primed to respond to stress, but if your body is stressed too often and unable to relax, you can cause permanent negative effects on your body. So take the time to relax so your body’s physiological processes can work properly. I am no longer going to let stress negatively effect me in my not so normal life.