What Your Body Does Under Stress
I’m always intrigued to find out what stresses people out and what they do about it. One day I asked a guy in his early thirties what stressed him out. Without hesitation in a rather sharp tone he said, “My wife, my kid, and my job!” I asked him what he did about it and he said, “Nothing! That’s why I’m so angry all the time!” Wow, if that dude doesn’t learn how to minimize, eliminate, and manage stress, it’s going to be detrimental to his health, his job, and his family.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” From my own experience, stress is probably the number one killer of my attitude. I emerge from the dead as a zombie with little tolerance, a short fuse, and no patience at all. Over the years, stress has affected my health in many ways, so I’ve made it a priority to learn to minimize, eliminate, and manage the stress in my life.
When your brain perceives any type of stressor, it quickly begins to respond by sending an alarm through your nervous system to alert your body to react. Your breathing rate increases, blood pressure goes up, blood flows to your muscles, blood sugar levels increase, muscles tense up, adrenal glands release stress hormones, hands and feet begin to sweat, and your heart rate increases. Why is that? Because your body is preparing to either run or respond due to the fight or flight response.
This was a good thing when we were in London, England, several years ago. We were underground getting ready to climb into “The Tube,” which is the underground rail system. (Of course, we saw a rat run across the platform, which made it more authentic.) When the doors opened up, my son got on and took a seat, as well as myself. My husband took a step up, dragging behind our enormous suitcases, when the door quickly shut on those suitcases. Immediately, I jumped up as well as those sitting around me, and we started prying the doors open. All the fight or flight physical responses were responding as needed because the real problem was that my 13-year-old daughter was still standing on the platform with a look of terror on her face. In a split second my husband leaned over the luggage, grabbed my daughter by the shirt, and hoisted her over the luggage. The luggage was pulled in, the doors closed, and we sped off. For a while, my husband and I sat in shock, envisioning our daughter getting smaller and smaller as we pulled away and what could have happened had we left her in London, England. What’s interesting though, is that about fifteen minutes after that stressful incident, all of our fight or flight responses settled down, our blood pressure and heartbeat were back to normal, and we were laughing about it.
Next time you experience stress, understand that your body will respond. Just make sure you’re not living in that stress 24/7 and your body is not in that mode 24/7. If you are, then my next blog will talk about the consequences of managing that stress.
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