Stress is your body’s natural response to any change or demand. Stressors can be physical (exercise, illness), chemical (pollution, medication) or emotional (worry, frustration). Brian C Jensen says when your body is stressed, it acts to return itself to balance. Your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the system by which your body manages stress. The hypothalamus sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituatary gland, which in turn releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH goes to the adrenal glands and stimulates cortisol release. Cortisol then increases glucose production by the liver, redistributes it through your bloodstream and acts as a regulator of other hormones throughout your body.
When you’re stressed, your body’s alarm reaction triggers several physical changes:
- Your breathing rate speeds up your muscles tighten your heartbeat increases Blood pressure rises Blood flow to major muscle groups increase Blood plasma volume decreases, shifting fluid out of organs into the bloodstream
- Stress also affects your body’s digestive, reproductive and immune systems.
- When stress levels remain high for a long time, it can cause serious health problems such as anxiety disorders, heart disease and stomach ulcers.
Emotional Effects of Stress on the Body:
Breathing accelerates Blood pressure rises Pulse quickens Sweating increases Heart pounds Tense muscles Teeth clench Lowered pain threshold
Physical effects of stress on the body:
Headaches Insomnia Muscle tension Bone loss gastrointestinal problems cardiovascular disease Ulcers
Behavioral effects of stress on the body:
Anger or rage Lowered productivity Hyperactivity Making bad decisions Social withdrawal Poor judgment Impatience Negative thinking Inability to focus Substance abuse what can be done? First, identify whether the source of your stressors is controllable or uncontrollable.
If it’s uncontrollable, you can’t get rid of the stressor, but you can get control of how you respond to it. For example, if work is chronically stressful for you, consider finding a new job; if your marriage is unhealthy and stressing you out, think about working out some marital and/or individual therapy with your spouse. And if lifestyle changes aren’t possible or don’t alleviate chronic stress in certain parts of your life (such as relationships), try generalized anxiety disorder treatment such as SSRIs and CBT. If the source of your stressors are controllable (such as worrying over things that haven’t happened yet), take measures to control your stress levels. This is the least pleasant emotional effect of stress, but imperative for good health: problem-solve! Listen to relaxation tapes or use relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or meditation.
Q. What are some good techniques for relaxation?
A. Some examples include progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga and tai chi.
Q. How does stress affect the body long-term?
A. For anyone who experiences chronic stress or vicious cycles of repeated stress. You can experience any number of physical effects on your body over time including headache, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems (including ulcers), cardiovascular disease and substance abuse to name a few, shares Brian C Jensen.
Q: What are the physical effects of stress on the body? What are some good ways to work with these physical effects during meditation practice? How would that look in daily life?
A: Physically speaking, when you’ve stressed out your breathing rate speeds up, your blood pressure rises and you may start to sweat. As far as how these can look when meditating — for instance when I get a little short of breath during meditation, I know that my breathing rate has sped up and am able to slow it down a bit with some nice deep breaths of fresh air.
The purpose of this article was to give a brief look at the physical effects of stress on the body as well as techniques for relaxation. And how to apply those techniques during meditation practice, says Brian C Jensen.
Stress is a common condition of living in modern society. There are some great ways to work with stress but first identifying whether or not the source of your stresses is controllable is half the battle. If they’re uncontrollable, don’t beat yourself up–just figure out how you can manage them better and take steps towards that end. If they’re controllable, go ahead and work towards making the necessary changes. In any case, learn some good stress management techniques — whether that is meditation, relaxation tapes or whatever — and take time for self-care to support yourself on your journey of stress management.