Stress is an essential part of our everyday lives!
In the short term, stress can be a terrific motivator; it helps us to get things done when we’re busy, to meet targets and deadlines, and helps us want to improve ourselves. But what is actually happening?
When you perceive danger, your brain tells your endocrine system to release chemical messengers – hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol – that get you ready to stand your ground, or to run away. They instruct your body to divert energy from non-immediately-essential processes like your immune system, digestive functions and reproductive organs, to what your brain sees as essential life-saving systems like your eyesight, hearing, muscles – and of course, your heart and lungs.
You’ll feel a massive surge of energy, you may notice your hearing and eyesight become more acute, you’re stronger, faster and you can even think more quickly! Some people even describe experiencing “time slowing down”. Sounds like you’re a superhero!
These effects all help you react more quickly to enable you to deal with danger; this is called the “Fight or Flight” response. It can leave you feeling shaky and drained afterwards – especially if this was a non-physical threat and there was nothing you could do about it at the time.
After the danger has passed, your ever-helpful brain orders the release of new chemical messengers – acetylcholineto calm you back down again – diverting energy back to all the body systems put on hold during the threat. Your body wants to operate at a nice, calm stable state in order to conserve energy. After all, you never know when you may next need to fight or run!
Next: what happens when I’m ALWAYS stressed?