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The Body Under Stress


In the previous post I explained what happens to your mind under stress. But the mind is just the beginning. Once your brain has experienced stress, it sends signals to the rest of your body. This blog talks about what happens to your body under stress.


Step 1: Hormones

The first thing that your brain does when stressed is signal to the body to release two hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. The primary function of both of these hormones is to activate certain systems in your body responsible for survival.


Step 2: Activation of Certain Systems

Cortisol and adrenaline activates a few specific systems in your body. These include things like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and increased blood pressure. This is why when we are stressed we say things like "I just can't catch my breathe" or "my heart feels like it's going to jump out of my chest". Your body is getting ready to fight and so these systems are vital for survival.


Step 3: Deactivation of Certain Systems

In addition to activating your heart and your lungs, your body also deactivates other systems that it believes are not vital for survival. The two biggest systems are your digestive system and immune system. When your body is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline it automatically shuts off digestion which could be an issue for you if you just ate. The biggest side effect of this is weight gain. The other system your body shuts off is your immune system making you more susceptible to illnesses such as respiratory viruses, and bacterial infections. The biggest consequence of this is chronic illnesses which in addition to wrecking havoc on your body also means that you fall behind with work, use up sick days, miss family events, etc...


Given what happens to your body under stress it makes sense to spend some time focusing on what you can do to reduce stress and increase resilience so that you can live a happier healthier life. Reach out to one of our executive coaches to have your current level of stress assessed, and to create a customized stress reduction and resiliency building plan.




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