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What Happens to Your Body When You’re Stressed

Prolonged stress and anxiety can take its toll on our mental and physical health. Here are some things that may happen, plus what you can do to help decrease stress throughout your body

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Stress is a normal daily occurrence that is triggered by a stressor or perceived threat. Stressors can range from a car speeding through a stop sign to an argument with a friend to a looming work deadline. Even though we tend to focus on its mental health aspects, stress is driven by underlying physiological changes. These changes are designed for our survival and occur as part of the body’s stress response which works like this:

  1. When the body senses an immediate threat (stressor), the nervous system elicits the fight-or-flight response.
  2. This triggers the brain to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which speed up heart rate, breathing, reaction time and muscle contractions so the body has the resources needed to handle, outrun or escape the stressor.
  3. As the stressor ends or dissipates, the body then slowly returns to normal, breathing and heartbeat slow and muscles slowly relax.

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