How Stress Affects Your Body
Let’s dive a little deeper into STRESS this week. We’re well into the busy summer season with longer days, new schedules, vacations, etc. and I know you’re likely feeling some pressure. I’m also guessing you often think you should just toughen up and “push through it”.
Spoiler alert: You can’t do it. That’s because stress isn’t all “in your mind.” It’s also in your body.
Your stress response system is a primal reaction… it’s hardwired into your system to keep you safe and alive.
How to Use Stress to Your Advantage
I’m going to outline some important things you need to know about stress and how it affects you – info that also will help you:
- Use stress to your best advantage… and
- Learn how to conquer it so it doesn’t run (and ruin) your life.
Stress can actually be a GOOD thing.
When our ancestors were under threat – whether it was fighting off a predator or dealing with everyday problems like feeding a growing family – their bodies responded with energy to keep them out of harm’s way.
Our culture has changed a lot since then, but our body’s wiring hasn’t. We react to stress the same way, except our stressors don’t require us to outrun a bear or worry about where our next meal is coming from.
And that can have a major impact on your health!
How Stress Affects Your Body
I want to walk through what happens to your body and mind during a typical stressful situation.
Hang in there with me because it’s pretty eye-opening.
Let’s pretend you’re starting your brand-new job at 8 a.m. next Monday.
This is your dream job, so you’re super-excited.
But then Monday morning you wake up and look at your clock and you see that it’s 7:15 a.m. Your alarm didn’t go off!
Here’s a quick summary of what happens in your body.
- Your eyes send that information to your brain’s amygdala, which helps you interpret what you see and hear.
- Your amygdala basically says, “What the #@*&!!!!?”
- It sends a distress call to your brain’s command center, your hypothalamus, which talks to the rest of your body through your autonomic nervous system.
Important background info: This system handles all of your involuntary functions, like the beating of your heart, your breathing, and your blood pressure. It works in two parts – the “sympathetic,” which is like a gas pedal, flooding your body with fuel to outpace danger, and “parasympathetic,” which is like a brake, calming things down after danger passes.
- As soon as your hypothalamus hears the distress call, it flips on the sympathetic nervous system, telling your adrenal glands to release epinephrine (aka adrenaline) into your bloodstream.
This is basically your body’s “GO!” juice.
- Your heart beats faster, sending blood to your muscles and other organs. Your airways open wide as your breathing speeds up, allowing more oxygen into your system. Some of that extra oxygen goes to your brain, sharpening your senses and making you more alert.
- To power all that action, the epinephrine also prompts your body to release fuel in the form of extra blood sugar and stored fat.
- All of that happens lightning-fast, before you even have a chance to fully register that your alarm didn’t go off! Your body does this to either give you the fuel you need to run away fast … or go to battle.
- Which is exactly what you do by jumping out of bed and springing to action. You have a LOT to do in a short period of time, and you want to make a good impression on your first day on the new job!
- Your body kicks on its second stress-response layer, your HPA axis, which consists of your hypothalamus, your pituitary gland, and your adrenal glands.
- Your adrenal glands dump cortisol (and more fuel) into your system to keep your accelerator on until the stress passes.
- When you finally hop into your car, you relax a little, triggering your parasympathetic system, which puts the brakes on your stress response so you can start to relax.
- At your new office (which somehow, miraculously, you arrive at on-time!), your sympathetic response kicks back on, keeping you sharp so you can make a great first impression.
- On the drive back home, your cortisol levels dip back down, once again triggering your parasympathetic “recovery” system.
- As your blood sugar levels dip because your body releases insulin to gobble it up from your system, you feel yourself becoming hungry and tired, or maybe even “hangry” until you can get something to eat.
- If this is an isolated issue, you’ll go on your way, having a normal day.
- But if this is just the latest thing to happen in a series of stressful events – or if you never learned stress-management techniques – your body might not know how to put on your anti-stress brake.
Over time, this constant revving of your sympathetic nervous system can lead to health problems that can damage your blood vessels, cause high blood pressure, and increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
As you can see, learning how to trigger your body’s parasympathetic (aka “rest & digest”) system is an important part of learning how to de-stress.
The Effects of Stress on Your Body and Mind
Monday, July 25 at 1:00 pm EDT
In this online workshop, I’m going to be sharing actionable tips, techniques, and strategies that you can use to help you combat your everyday stress.
This is such a MASSIVE and chronic problem in our culture today, so I want to make sure I provide you with real world tips that will help you in your life.
That’s why I’m offering this live online workshop. In t, I’ll outline several tips and techniques – including a powerful breathing exercise – to help your body learn how to shed stress and find calm.
One of the most important things you can do to help destress is to take short “breathing breaks” during the course of the day where you sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
Calming your breathing calms your body!
Here are some other quick and easy practical tips: go outside for a short walk, listen to calming music, take a half-hour technology break, or read (from a real book!). You’ll find yourself relaxing almost immediately.
Taking a few stress breaks during the course of the day isn’t “weak.” It’s actually STRONG, because it helps you take back control.
Working out and eating mindfully also helps your body recover from stress.
Register for my LIVE workshop today!
Meet Your Host
Rachel is a holistic life and health coach as well as a registered yoga teacher. She’s passionate about helping high-achieving women manage and reduce stress in their lives so that they can live with more energy, purpose, and joy.
Learn more about her story >>HERE<<