Stress is normal. It begins when we perceive a threat, and that threat can be real like being in a car accident or it can be imagined simply by seeing a car accident and thinking there must be a lot of crazy drivers on the road.
The Brain Responds to Stress
When you perceive a threat, your brain jumps into action to prepare you to fight the threat or to run from it. This is called the fight or flight response. Your brain tells your body to get ready by:
- increasing your heart rate and blood pressure
- slowing down your digestive processes
- decreasing blood flow to your extremities and increasing it to your major muscles
- increasing production of adrenaline
- increasing production of cortisol
Cortisol is used by your body even when you are not in a stressful situation but it is called the stress hormone because of its role during times of stress. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and plays a significant part in:
- making certain glucose metabolizes properly in your body
- regulating blood pressure
- releasing insulin for proper blood sugar balance
- helping your body's immune system
- helping your body respond to inflammations
There are two types of stress we'll discuss in the next article. Acute stress (the good kind) finds cortisol performing at its best. Small increases in cortisol will:
- increase memory functions
- lower our sensitivity to pain
- provide a quick burst of increased protection to our immune system
- provide a quick burst of energy
Chronic stress (the bad kind) causes us to have too much cortisol in our bloodstream for too long a period of time. This causes impaired cognitive performance, high blood pressure, increased abdominal fat and more!
Increased abdominal fat?!? I don't know about you, but that will certainly create even more stress for me. So let's learn more about the types of stress in the next article.
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