The Physical Effects of Stress
It's impossible for stress not to have adverse physical effects on us. Even experiencing a minor change in our lives, like taking a vacation for example, adds to our overall stress level and will have some form of psychological or physical effects.
Lets think about how animals react when they are feeling stress from being frightened? They either attack or take off running. At first, they may freeze and stand completely still but this is only a temporary reaction. If the stressor continues or gets worse, that's when the animal eventually decides to attack or run off. This type of reaction is best known as "flight or fight", and is not just limited to animals. When human beings experience a significant amount of stress, a lot of the physical effects are the same. We, too, have this flight-or-fight response and will do whatever it takes to get out of the way or fight off the pressures to the best of our ability.
We endure this added strain on our bodies by reacting to stress automatically, thus, forcing our bodies and mind into action. Some of the physical effects are obvious while others are not. For example, whenever a stressor comes along, more sugar flows into our bloodstreams (giving us the energy necessary to react), our senses become aware of the situation and we become more alert, our muscles tense up, our pulse rate and breathing become faster, our hearts "pound" or beat at a more rapid pace, and then our whole body gets all geared up. This is especially helpful when we are facing danger , such as the car in front of us makes a sudden stop, for example, or if facing some other type of situation that would demand alertness and skill to avoid a potential crisis.
Stress can also build more subtly. It can come from dealing with noisy kids all day or, perhaps, from struggling through a bad situation in the workplace on a daily basis. During times like these, our bodies become aroused physically but reacting with the flight-or-flight technique would be inappropriate. Therefore, we more appropriately respond by taking control our emotions and clamping down on our reactions. As a result of this, the body will begin to fight against itself as it becomes physically stimulated to take some type of action, but then the control mechanism takes over which stops us from carrying out that action. It's obvious that our systems cannot handle this over long periods of time. Over long periods of time, stress can result in inner tension, physical illness, or even mental breakdown. Our body's automatic reaction, which once saved the lives of many warriors and hunters, now cripples and even kills!
Ulcers are a good example of how our bodies react to long periods of stress if we don't learn to cope and deal with it appropriately. It is not uncommon for business executives to develop ulcers. It is even sometimes joked between executives that they have finally reached their goals of success when they have developed an ulcer. It is more accurate to point out, however, that developing ulcers is the direct result of inside tension, excess worry, and inability to cope with stress.
Bottom line! Learning how to cope in problem areas you can't control or by changing the things you can will improve your health and help you live a longer, happier life!
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