How Your Body Responds to Stress
Do you know how your body tells you it is stressed? Stress shows up in your body when your brain finds a threat to your safety. Threats can be physical, like seeing a bear in the woods. Threats can also be mental and emotional, like a sick loved one or work changes. No matter the stressor, your body’s response remains the same. You may experience symptoms like:
- Forgetfulness. Stress and anxiety take up your brain’s energy. It can affect your attention and ability to retrieve memories. If you’re feeling foggy or having trouble focusing, it may be because of stress.
- Tense Muscles. Our bodies deal with stress by going into fight-or-flight mode. We release hormones that prepare our muscles to respond to a threat causing muscle tension./li>
- Gut Problems. Your gut and nervous system are so closely connected that it is sometimes called your “second brain.” Chronic (long-term) stress can cause painful GI issues.
- Sickness. Constant stress causes increased heart rate and blood pressure which puts a strain on the body. This can have long-lasting effects on your overall health and immune system over time.
Sometimes stress may feel an unavoidable part of life. It’s important to learn tools to cope with stress symptoms such as:
- Exercise. Movement helps release feel-good hormones called endorphins. You can literally shake the stress away with a daily movement routine. Walking, running, dancing, it all works!
- Mindful Breathing. Focusing on your breath can help slow your heart rate and calm your body’s fight-or-flight response.
- Berries have been linked to improved memory. Blueberries have antioxidants, which may reduce brain aging.
- Physical Touch. Hugging can have great health benefits. Hugs help release a hormone called oxytocin which increases happiness and lowers stress. Give your body some TLC with a self-massage. Hugging yourself works too!
- Meditation. Meditation is any activity that helps you to focus your mind. If you find traditional meditation challenging, try coloring, washing dishes/cleaning, or listening to music. Mindful practices bring your focus to the present moment and away from stressful thoughts.