A stressful situation — whether in the form of a work deadline, a toxic relationship, or a persistent worry about finances — can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce changes in our physiology.
When you feel stressed, you might feel your heart beating faster or you notice your breathing increasing and your muscles tensing up. When we enter this ’fight or flight“ state there is a cascade of hormonal changes and physiological responses that are designed to help us fight the threat off or flee to safety. Stress is a perfectly normal reaction to external events and a very intelligent survival technique. Healthy stress is meant to protect us!
Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as heavy traffic, work demands, and a busy family life. Imagine a bear is chasing you. You want your legs moving and, for that, you need cortisol and adrenaline which are released as part of our fight or flight response which is signaled by the sympathetic nervous system.
Now, imagine a bear was chasing you for a whole week, just imagine the havoc this would wreak in your body. Because your body cannot distinguish between a bear or a work deadline, the same cortisol and adrenaline hormones will be released in these instances.
Your body is constantly trying to get to a state of balance – however, if the stress reactions are either too strong or triggered too often, your body will remain on high alert and this will build up resistance and tolerance to coexist with continuous stressors. Some of the adverse effects this extended release of stress hormones can have on your body are:
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