Stress - What it Does to Your Body

Stress - What it Does to Your Body


Stress is the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.

Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you and around you —and many things that you do yourself—put stress on your body. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.

Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress -- a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

Consider the following:

✦ 43 % of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
✦ 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
✦ Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
✦ The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace.
✦ Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
✦ The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
✦ Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn't mean that life is free from stress.

On the contrary, you undoubtedly face multiple demands each day, such as shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet, taking care of your family, or just making it through the morning rush hour. Your body treats these so-called minor hassles as threats. As a result, you may feel as if you're constantly under assault but remember: you do not have to let stress control your life.

Understanding the natural stress response

If your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. That's because your body's "fight-or-flight reaction" — its natural alarm system — is constantly on.

When you encounter perceived threats — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

Stress Overload

The body's stress-response system is usually self-regulating. It decreases hormone levels and enables your body to return to normal once a perceived threat has passed. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities.

But when the stressors of your life are always present, leaving you constantly feeling stressed, tense, nervous or on edge, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The less control you have over potentially stress-inducing events and the more uncertainty they create, the more likely you are to feel stressed. Even the typical day-to-day demands of living can contribute to your body's stress response.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes.

This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

⚠ Heart disease
⚠ Sleep problems
⚠ Digestive problems
⚠ Depression
⚠ Obesity
⚠ Memory impairment
⚠ Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema
⚠ Lower gastrointestinal functions
⚠ Lower immune reaction -> higher risk for infections
⚠ Lower sexual functions

Sources: MayoClinic, WebMD,

Gain Mental Clarity and Melt Away Stress

Gain Mental Clarity and Melt Away Stress

Our brains are like amazing, super powerful computers. Think of each of our brains (computer) as having a certain amount of RAM which determines its processing capacity. The more applications the “computer” is running, the more RAM is used and the slower the computer gets.

This RAM is used for all kinds of brain work, from thinking, recalling, analyzing, to the subconscious actions. The key goal for mental clarity is to have as much free RAM as possible to function at the top capacity of your brain.  

We know that not all our potential RAM is available when we want them. At least half is occupied with mental clutter—thoughts running in the background such as of things we have to do, regret doing, like to do and anxiety over things we have not thought of doing yet.

The majority of the clutter and noise in our heads is triggered by the infinite external stimuli all around us. From the second people wake up in the morning, to when they sleep for the night, we are all exposed to stimuli from the environment.

Especially with all the technological gadgets and screens that funnel information and “noise”, the more active contact people have with the world, the more stimuli they are exposed to.

From your workplace to the home, mass media, intentional marketing and man-made expressions of diversity are perverse. Even if you live like a monk or hermit, you will still be faced with your own set of external stimuli.

Just like eating healthy and nurturing our body with exercise and body movement, it is very important to observe and care for our mental activity, through introspection, journaling, or meditation (to name a few).

Think of mind clutter as the unimportant programs and applications running in your computer. You don’t need them for your computer to function.

By virtue of them running in the background, they slow down the computer and use precious resources. When we do not address the clutter, we risk jamming the computer altogether and a possible “crash” in the system when we reach a point of non-adaptability.   

Speaking of meditation, scientifically speaking, a specific type of transcendental or Vedic mediation has proven to clear mental clutter and absolve the body’s stored stress and noise in the head.

Please see other articles on meditation on this site for more in-depth explanations. It is proven: people who meditate, feel calmer and experience clearer states of minds.

Meditation is one of the most powerful ways of clearing the body of stress and turns the biological clock back years! Think of it as a natural and almost effortless anti-aging form of mind and body therapy.

However, sometimes people do not know how to properly meditate or push against mind clearing and distressing via transcendental meditation. Have a heart. There are other ways to clean up the mind clutter!

Journaling or brain dumping is a great way to release stored stresses and clear the mind.

1. Pick a medium of writing

Either pen/paper or a for the modern tech person, your favorite electronic gadget (computer, tablet, iPhone, or the like).

My pick is my daily journal that looks like a calendar but has a bigger everyday space to jot down important extra notes.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like using cursive when I get a chance. Plus, when I review the year or previous years, I can remember the events in my life, how I felt during them and notice any patterns that can help me change undesirable behaviors. 

2. If you do choose to write in a traditional journal, blog or type

Simply let your emotions and feelings flow onto paper. Write whatever is on your mind onto the paper. No need to be formal or overthink it.

3. 10 to 15 minutes, or however long it takes for your mind to feel clearer is all that is needed.

Using writing to clear the clutter in our mind is an effective way of processing clutter, even more than sleep. With this exercise, it is the speed you write which determines how fast it gets processed. If you type fast, you can process a lot of clutter really quickly.

Another way to clear mental clutter and distress is by using a special breathing technique called diaphragmatic breathing to calm the mind, relax the physical body. It will also help you to feel mentally alert.

1.       Begin to breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth in a steady circular rhythm.

If you can, close your eyes, but this is not essential. Think of nothing but your breathing. Focus on drawing the pure air into your lungs and breathing away any stale air.

2.       Push the stomach out so that it expands with your in-breath (inhalation).

Then, as you exhale, the stomach goes in and the chest slightly expands. Practice this breathing cycle for a while until it comes naturally.

3.       Once you have mastered the practice of diaphragmatic breathing, you can add on the following to the technique.

Continue with the diaphragmatic breathing and make each in-breath last as long as possible so that you fill all of your lungs. Then, when the lungs are full, at the top of your breath hold it for three seconds. One, two, three.

4.       Exhale very slowly and count to five as you do so.

Continue with this pattern keeping your breathing slow and steady. You will soon begin to feel physically relaxed and mentally calm.

Start any of these exercises and you will see the difference almost immediately.