What happens when we are stressed?
The human body is equipped with an Autonomic Nervous System, which reacts to stress and relaxation. The Sympathetic Nervous System is the part of the Autonomic Nervous System that triggers the stress response. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is the part responsible for the relaxation response. Normally, the Autonomic Nervous System remains in a state of equilibrium so that we do not become too stressed.
When we become stressed, the Autonomic Nervous System becomes imbalanced. The Sympathetic Nervous System predominates. Our body goes into a fight-flight response, so called because the body is prepared to react to danger by either confronting the stressful situation or stimulus, or by running away.
Normally, the body switches off the fight-flight response after the threatening situation has disappeared, and returns to a state of equilibrium. When this does not happen, we can experience symptoms of stress. Chronic stress may lead to anxiety or depression.
How do we feel when we are stressed?
Physiologically, the fight-flight response is triggered by an over-production of certain chemical substances in our bodies, including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This mobilises glucose and free fatty acids to fuel increased energy consumption and increase heart activity.