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 What exactly is the stress response?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

This is a great question because you can't really manage stress if you don't even know what you're dealing with.

 Let's first take a look at what stress is. Stress is our reaction to a stimulus. That stimulus can be a deadline, bills, kids arguing, missing keys, a wedding, pregnancy….

Anything in life can result in a reaction from us. And that reaction starts with an activation of the sympathetic nervous system – our stress response. It's also known as the fight or flight response.

When your fight or flight response gets activated,

  • Pulse and heart beat quicken

  • Fatty acids and oxygen increase in blood supply

  • Capillaries constrict

  • Blood clots more easily

  • Pupils dilate

  • Mucous membranes shrink

  • Bowels and bladder empty

  • Perspiration increases

  • Digestion and reproduction stops

  • Immune system shuts down

Once your mind realizes that you’re safe, your sympathetic nervous system calms down and your parasympathetic nervous system get activated. Your digestive system, immune system, and circulatory system go back to normal and your muscles relax.

 The stress response was designed for short term stress. Unfortunately, stress is more constant than ever. We rarely get a break from it. So our sympathetic nervous systems are always on high alert.

The body cannot sustain that for very long. This is why we see stress related illnesses. This is why it's so important to make stress management a habit.

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