Meeting deadlines may be inspirational for some and a nightmare for others. When you are under stress your body reacts as if you are facing a physical threat and initiates the ‘fight or flight’ response.
The ‘fight or flight’ response – in slow motion:
Your pituitary gland responds to a perceived threat by increasing the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
By this time your heart is racing to pump blood to vital areas of the body to cope with the stress.
The rate of breathing is increased to supply adequate oxygen to your heart, brain and exercising muscles.
Perspiration is increased to help maintain body temperature.
Digestive secretions are decreased because digestion is not critical when trying to counteract stress.
Blood sugar levels are increased to provide instant energy.
Cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream decline which, results in your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and metabolism returning to normal.
Compared to early man we are constantly under stress and when the fight or flight response is activated, then the following long-term health problems can occur:
- Headache, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor concentration, insomnia
- High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease
- Increased asthma attacks in asthma sufferers
- Digestive changes, diarrhoea or constipation, heartburn
- Muscular aches, twitches or spasms
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Excessive use of tobacco or alcohol
- Decreased sex drive. Reproductive changes eg irregular menstrual cycle, premenstrual syndrome
- Immune changes
Why it happens?
A stressor can be anything that creates a disturbance that your body sees as harmful. These triggers may include:
- Physical trauma such as a car accident
- Emotional upset
- Exposure to excessive heat or cold
- Environmental toxins
- Life events such as marriage, death of a loved one, divorce, financial difficulties, work problems and retirement.
What natural therapies can help?
Valerian, passion flower, chamomile, lemon balm and skullcap are calming herbs and may help if you’re experiencing sleeping difficulties or constantly ‘up tight’.
Korean ginseng, withania, rhodiola and oats – all traditional nervous system tonics can be used to strengthen the nervous system and support energy levels, so are ideal herbs for when you’re under pressure and feeling exhausted.
Liquorice tea – an adrenal tonic.
Did you know?
- Don’t overburden your body with the extra stress of late nights, alcohol, excessive caffeine and junk food. Get adequate rest and follow a healthy diet.
- Chill out – regular exercise and stretching helps clear your mind and relaxes your muscles. Try deep breathing exercises and meditation if you can’t slow down.
- Seek help or talk to a friend if stress is consuming you.