The charged-up feeling that often comes with stressful events, such as giving a presentation or getting married, is the body's way of preparing itself to meet a challenge. It's called the stress response or the fight or flight response. The stress response is the body's way of preparing to run from a challenge or stand and fight against it.
During the stress response the body releases several hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine. These hormones and several others cause the body to:
- Increase heart rate
- Raise blood pressure
- Increase blood flow to the muscles
- Increase sweating
- Prepare the immune system for action
These responses are helpful when you face an immediate threat. Unfortunately, this fight or flight response is not appropriate or healthy for the types of stressful situations usually faced in your everyday life.
The Negative Effects of Stress
Medical research shows that the body's response to chronic stress can be bad for your health and well-being.¹ Chronic stress is associated with a number of health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Physical inactivity
- Poor eating habits
- Sleep problems
- Weak immune system
How Do You Respond to Stress?
There are many different signs and symptoms that indicate when you're experiencing stress. Some are physical, while others are emotional or behavioral.
Physical - These signals are reflected in how the body responds to stress. This include a rapid heartbeat, neck pain, back pain or nervous tension.
Emotional - These signals are reflected in how we think and feel. These include feeling irritable or depressed.
Behavioral - These responses are actions we do in response to stressful events, such as overeating, drinking too much or watching too much television.
Everyone has different emotional and physical signs of stress. Recognizing symptoms of stress early can help you begin looking for solutions as soon as possible.
¹The Mayo Clinic, Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings and behavior