Effects of stress on the body

Fight-or-Flight Response

The fight-or-flight response is our bodies reaction to anything that our mind perceives as a dangerous threat in our environment. Back in the good ol' days (prehistoric times) before supermarkets and McDonald's existed, if you wanted to eat you had to go out in the woods and gather some plants and berries or pick up a spear and go hunting.

In those days, just trying to get something to eat was a very dangerous activity. You had to pay attention to every little sight and sound in your environment or you might be the one to end up on the menu.

Is That a Tiger Behind That Bush?

Let's say you hear a twig snap or something rustling the leaves behind a bush. It could be a deer or it could be a very large and hungry tiger staring at you like you’re a chicken mcnugget. In this situation, let's say you interpret the sound in the bush to be a tiger or some other dangerous animal. Your body goes into the fight-or-flight response.

The pupils of your eyes dilate, blood flows to your muscles and limbs (for running away or fighting), hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) are released and other changes are going on in your body. Your body is physically preparing itself to either run for your life or fight for your life.

Responding to Psychological Threats

The fight-or-flight response is useful in a real instance of physical danger. Fortunately, in our modern society we don't normally have to worry about running down the street from a lion trying to eat us. The problem is that this stress response can be set off by non-physical threats like an angry boss, a screaming child, getting annoyed with bad drivers in traffic, etc.

Just Plain Worn Out

When this stress response is prolonged over days and weeks, it gradually wears the body down because the body wasn't designed to remain in a fight-or-flight state indefinitely. Eventually, all of the major systems of the body are negatively affected and imbalances occur which then set the stage for illness and disease to enter the picture.

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