What is stress?
In the terms of physiology, stress is anything that causes the body to respond by releasing stress hormones. Therefore you could define stress as, ‘an event that causes by the body’s natural fight-or-flight, stress response’.
The “stress response” is what happens when the body reacts to stressors.
What physiologically happens when your body experiences a stressor?
Whether the stress is physical or emotional, the response is the same and it happens at the same time.
Behind the scenes:
Your body systems automatically function whether you are awake or asleep; your heart, your digestion and waste system, your brain and nerve system, your climate control, your breathing, your thinking and of course, the fight-or-flight response.
A stressor is perceived
The (sympathetic) nervous system uses chemicals to activate your body’s “fight or flight” stress response. You become alert, vigilant, aroused, activated and prepared for action. You feel shaky, nervous, sweaty and your gut wrenches.
Automatically, another interactive-interrelationship system becomes active. It instructs your liver and muscles break down glycogen into glucose. This provides a quick source of glucose for energy. There is also an increase of fat breakdown, to provide glycerol in order to make glucose, and fatty acids.
The end result is an increased concentration of fats in the blood to be used for energy. One effect is that your muscles tire less easily.
What else happens automatically throughout the body, simultaneously?
Your breathing becomes faster; your heart rate increases and becomes more powerful increasing your cardiac output and circulation. Larger quantities of blood are directed to the muscles, and less directed to the organs.
The End Result: The Stress Response.
These actions result in increased physical strength, energy, and readiness for intense physical activity.
- Muscles do not tire as easily.
- Blood flows to the muscles to allow them to work.
- Fat is broken down for energy.
- The body is also prepared for injury because the blood can clot more easily.
Warning: The Stress Response creates a ‘super’ version of yourself, but beware, running on high stress and anxiety long term is detrimental to your long-term good health and well-being.