We love this article by Laura Schocker in the Huffington Post as it breaks down exactly how stress affects our bodies, in layman terms. Ensure you check out the infographic detailing how each part of the brain and body deals with stress inputs.
This Is Your Body On Stress
Your boss reams you out for a bad presentation — you break out into a sweat. Your demanding mother-in-law comes for a visit — your head pounds. Rumors swirl about possible layoffs at work — you can’t sleep. An unexpected expense takes a hit on your bank account — your stomach aches.
Here’s why: Historically, the majority of stressors facing humans were physical (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), requiring, in turn, a physical response. “We are not particularly splendid physical creatures,” says David Spiegel, M.D., director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford School of Medicine, who explains that plenty of other animals can outrun us, overpower us, out-see us, out-smell us. “The only thing that has allowed us to explore the planet is the fact that we can respond effectively to threats.”
Humans are equipped with a sophisticated fight or flight response that allows us to outrun a grizzly bear or fight off an animal far more powerful than we are. When stressed, the sympathetic nervous system takes control of the body, which then triggers fight or flight. (The counterpart of the sympathetic nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest system” which is in control during more relaxing times. Both are part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions.) Once our bodies identify a threat, we prepare for war (or getting the heck out of there): muscles tense up, the heart starts beating faster and blood flows away from any non-essential body system.