Lesson 1: Stress and the Body

77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress according to the American Psychological Association.

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.

Cortisol is closely linked with stress, a key player in the body’s response to stress, and is often measured as an indicator of stress levels. According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, “The repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.”

Stress tends to happen when people feel overwhelmed and overloaded with demands they cannot meet, or when faced with a challenging situation with family, friends, or colleagues. Stress is the body’s way of responding to a kind of demand or threat – whether real or perceived. 

A stress response can be induced by the body’s perception of a situation and even though that situation may not need to induce a fight or flight response, if the amygdala perceived danger it is going to sound the alarm and send a message to the hippocampus that the body is in stress, thus activating the body’s fight, flight or freeze response system. 

Types of Stress:

  • Acute Stress: fight or flight, the body’s preparation to defend itself
  • Chronic Stress: daily living, bills, family job; the type of stress we tend to push down
  • Eustress: Good stress; marriage, baby, graduation
  • Distress: Bad situational stress; divorce, injury, negative feelings

Top Causes of Stress in the US:

  • JOB PRESSURE: Co-Worker Tension, Bosses, Work Overload
  • MONEY: Loss of Job, Reduced Retirement, Medical Expenses
  • HEALTH: Health Crisis, Terminal, or Chronic Illness
  • RELATIONSHIPS: Divorce, Death of Spouse, Arguments with Friends, Loneliness
  • POOR NUTRITION: Inadequate Nutrition, Caffeine, Processed Foods, Refined Sugars
  • MEDIA OVERLOAD: Television, Radio, Internet, E-Mail, Social Networking
  • SLEEP DEPRIVATION: Inability to release adrenaline and other stress hormones

Slow controlled breathing is a top modality to relax in moments of stress or when feeling overwhelmed and overloaded. 

Top 10 Signs of Stress:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Irritability
  3. Headaches
  4. Lack of Energy
  5. Feeling Dizzy
  6. Upset Stomach
  7. Change in appetite
  8. Change in sex drive
  9. Muscle Tension
  10. Teeth Grinding

Effects of Stress:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Decreases happiness
  • Decreases productivity
  • Reduces retention of information
  • Rewires neuropathways in the brain
  • Pumps cortisol and adrenaline consistently
  • Increases vulnerability to stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure
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