What is the “stress response” and how does it affect my health?
The stress response is the body’s survival mechanism and is activated when we feel stressed, worried, fearful, anxious, etc. Our thoughts and feelings signal the body to produce cortisol, which is a chemical that functions as a messenger throughout the body to activate the “fight or flight” response (sympathetic dominant nervous system). It is your friend when you’re in real danger. It prepares the body to escape from danger, like when you need to run away from a tiger for example. It acts like a “turbo boost” function to give the extra energy needed to to handle the emergency at hand. It gets the “extra” energy by diverting energy away from other systems like your digestive system, immune system, reproductive system, etc. When the danger is over, the body should return to our normal “rest and digest” system (parasympathetic dominant nervous system) and energy is redirected back to the digestive system, immune system, and so on.
These natural processes of our autonomic nervous system are designed to keep us alive and safe. However, problems arise when we are chronically stressed and keep our body stuck in the “fight or flight” mode. We cannot function well when our digestive system, immune system and other necessary systems aren’t working properly. In fact, according to the CDC, over 90% of our health problems are related to stress. Furthermore, our autonomic nervous system cannot tell the difference between the physical danger of being chased by a tiger or being stressed about our kids, our work, our finances, our relationships, etc. So it’s very easy to trigger that “fight or flight” mode and stay there.
The branches of the autonomic nervous system are designed to keep us alive and safe. The “stress response” activates the sympathetic or “fight or flight” system and the “relaxation response” activates the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” system. Chronic worry and stress can keep us stuck in the fight or flight system and can negatively affect virtually every organ in the body and cause numerous health problems.
How do I turn off the stress response?
The opposite of the stress response is called the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response signals the body to return to the rest and digest (parasympathetic dominant) state. The stress response, relaxation response, and cortisol levels are affected by what we do, say, and think. That means that we can do something about it. To feel better, we decrease stress chemicals and increase “feel good” chemicals by changing what we do, say, and think. It’s easier to control what we do than it is to control what we think. It’s pretty hard to just choose to stop worrying and think ourselves happy. So our actions are our greatest point of personal power.
Through small and simple action steps we can proactively turn on the relaxation response and lower cortisol levels in the body. For example Hope for Healing offers a video with a 5 minute routine to decrease stress chemicals and increase feel good chemicals. We also offer a free progressive relaxation guide, free audio course on stress management, and several tips to relieve worry, stress, and anxiety. There are many things we can do to alter the chemistry in our bodies so we feel less stressed and enjoy better mental, emotional, and physical health and well being.
We have more power over how we feel than many people think. Please check out the many tips and tools offered by Hope for Healing by clicking on the images below. Also please check out our “free stuff” tab for even more resources.
Emotional resilience 101
Practical tips to feel happier and less stressed.
Being emotionally resilient improves the quality of our lives. It reduces anxiety, worry, and stress and increases confidence and inner peace. Learn how to feel happier and less stressed in 5 easy lessons.
Tips to relieve worry, stress, and anxiety
Worry, stress and anxiety can trigger a host of health problems, but there are things we can do to overcome the feelings of worry, stress, and axiety.
Here are 17 simple ways to relieve worry, stress, and anxiety.
Free audio course
This audio course is designed to help increase skills to calm fear, anxiety, worry, and stress. You’ll learn how to decrease stressors and increase coping skills. Learn effective tools to manage stress.
Linda's Corner Podcast
Linda’s Corner Podcast is a wonderful resource to manage stress. Listen as experts share tips and advice on stress management and other topics. You have the power to create the life you want. We’ll show you how.
Reduce stress in 5 minutes
It takes just 5 minutes a day to create a happier life. We can show your how to make measurable changes in the way you feel. Easy step by step instructions show you an attainable pathway to happiness. Are you willing to invest 5 minutes to transform your life?
How does worry and stress affect your health?
90% of our health problems are related to stress. Learn how worry and stress may be affecting your mental, emotional, and physical health. Learn how to manage worry and stress.
Free mental health resources
Are you ready to be happier, healthier, and more successful? Please enjoy these free resources to manage stress, overcome depression and anxiety, build confidence and self esteem, improve relationships and live the joyful life you were meant to live.
Help for depression
There are ways to overcome depression and anxiety naturally, without medication. Check out the free ebooks, audio courses, videos and articles all designed to help people overcome depression and become happy again.