When the body is physically or psychologically stressed the body shifts its energy resources in fighting off what is a perceived threat and we go into what is known as our fight or flight response and this has different effects on each of our systems in the body to which there are:
The nervous system -
stress on the nervous system signals to the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, these hormones make the heart beat faster, raise blood pressure, change the digestive system and boost glucose levels in the bloodstream, once the crisis has passed usually the system returns to normal.
The musculoskeletal system –
Under stress, muscles tense up, the contraction of muscles in extended periods of time can trigger, headaches, migraines and other variety of conditions. Therefore, it is important to make sure that we stretch before and after any workout routines, whether at the gym, swimming or running. This is one of many reasons as to why massage is important, to have a therapist that can manually assist In the relaxation of the muscles, tight muscles pull on bodies skeletal structures and create compensations within the body, Yoga and Pilates are also good ways of keeping the body supple and soft as well as creating strength.
The respiratory system –
stress can make you breathe harder known as hyperventilation, which can bring on panic attacks in some people and of course the total opposite is when we are scared/nervous and for those who have anxiety tend to hold on to our breathe which in turn creates the contraction in the muscular system. therefore, is it so important to remember to breathe, an take nice slow controlled breathe, in through the nose and out through the mouth… this is something that can be practiced and within time can become second nature… you might have even heard therapists or instructors asking you to breathe… why not try it now take a nice slow full breathe in through the nose and slowly exhale out through the mouth, try this a few times and see how you feel.
Cardiovascular system –
we call this acute stress, and it is momentary, stuck in traffic, waiting for an important phone call, generally making life’s little tough decisions, and what this does is increase the heart rate, creates stronger contractions in the heart muscles and dilates the function of heart. In turn it increases the amount of blood pumped to the part of the body. Repeat episodes of acute stress can cause inflammation of the coronary arteries and thought to lead to heart attacks. Which is why its so important to breathe.
Endocrine system –
So the endocrine system essentially is the part of the body that releases hormones and chemicals, we are going to talk specifically about the liver and the adrenal glands. When the body is stressed, the brain sends signals from the part of our brain called the hypothalamus, causing the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol and the adrenal medulla to produce epinephrine, this is otherwise known as “the stress hormone” and when these hormones are released from the liver it produces more glucose into our bodies, which gives us the energy for this fight or flight response, do we need the energy to run or do we need it to fight, and if ever you’ve been in a heated argument and notice you might be shaking or trembling, this this why.
Reproductive system –
In men, excess amounts of this stress hormone (cortisol an epinephrine) can affect the normal functioning of the reproductive system, chronic stress can impair testosterone, effecting sperm production and cause impotence.
In woman stress can absent, cause irregular menstrual cycles or more painful periods, it can also reduce libido.
Gastrointestinal system –
This is everything from your oesophagus to your stomach and your intestines (bowels).
Stress can have a knock on effect to our maladaptive coping mechanism (habits) it may prompt us to eat more OR less than we usually would, if you’re a smoker you may increase your cigarette intake or if you tend to enjoy a drink once in a while it may increase your level of alcohol intake, these things may make you experience things like heartburn or acid reflux.
With stress come the “butterfly” feeling we get in our stomach or in some cases nausea, as we travel further down to our bowels, stress can effect then the digest of the food we process and to which your intestines absorb the nutrients, regarding our “fight or flight” response. You may find that you have either diarrhoea or constipation.