How does stress impact us?
It’s inevitable that we will feel stress in our lives at some point or another. What we aren’t always aware of is the impact that stress has in our bodies. We often don’t notice our physical reactions as our focus is usually on the cause of the stress.
So what is happening when we are stressed?
The nervous system has several divisions: The central division involving the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral division consisting of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has a direct role in physical response to stress and is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). When the body is stressed, the SNS contributes to what is known as the "fight or flight" response. The body shifts its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat, or fleeing from an enemy. The SNS signals the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenalin (epinephrine) and cortisol. These hormones, together with direct actions of autonomic nerves, cause the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase, blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, digestive process to change and glucose levels (sugar energy) in the bloodstream to increase to deal with the emergency.
The SNS response is fairly sudden in order to prepare the body to respond to an emergency situation or acute stress, short term stressors. Once the crisis is over, the body usually returns to the pre-emergency, unstressed state. This recovery is facilitated by the PNS, which generally has opposing effects to the SNS. But PNS. Both the SNS and the PNS have powerful interactions with the immune system, which can also modulate stress reactions. The central nervous system is particularly important in triggering stress-responses, as it regulates the autonomic nervous system and plays a central role in interpreting contexts as potentially threatening.
Our bodies do not understand the difference between a life threatening situation or something like being stuck in traffic for example.
Chronic stress, experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time, can result in a long-term drain on the body. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes wear and tear on the body. It's not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic.
Understanding the root cause of the stress and how to improve symptoms of stress is crucial for good health. Diet, Supplements and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.