Our body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect us against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn’t mean that life is free of stress.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began March 2020, there has been unprecedented levels of stress due to loss of income, work, business, freedoms, as well as from travelling restrictions, politics, police aggression, fear-based mainstream propaganda, censorship and social limitations. Your body treats these as threats and reacts as if it’s constantly under attack.
When you encounter a perceived threat — such as a large dog barking at you during your morning walk — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear.
The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities.
But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:
– Digestive problems
– Heart disease
– Sleep problems
– Weight gain
– Memory and concentration impairment
That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope with your life stressors. You can learn to relax and not let stress control your life.
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