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Posted by bio_man   December 16, 2022   3535 views

The stress response exists for the purpose of survival. When we experience stress, our sympathetic nervous system activates, blood pressure and heart rate increase, and often we begin to sweat. These physiological reactions prepare us for "fight or flight." Our bodies are at optimal physical performance and alertness levels, and we are therefore optimized for survival in a physically challenging situation. Sometimes we use this physiological activation to our advantage: Consider a champion weightlifter who, prior to lifting an extremely heavy weight, "pumps himself up." By doing this, the weightlifter is attempting behaviorally to elicit a stress response from his brain and body in order to achieve the highest level of physical performance possible.

With regard to the stress response, most of us are not faced with challenging, potentially life-threatening situations on a daily basis. However, we are capable of generating large amounts of psychological stress (that don't require physical action) — and the physiological response is the same. So the problem with psychological stress, really, is that we create it with our minds, and our bodies produce the necessary fuel to react physically, but we don't (or can't) react physically. Daily hassles, such as traffic and feeling rushed activate the "fight or flight" response mentioned earlier, but the circumstances don't allow us to react to it (e.g. having to remain inside your vehicle until the road clears). The health consequences of this cycle are potentially hazardous, as the materials (e.g., glucocorticoids) generated by the body during the stress response lead to many cardiovascular maladies, including atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to insomnia, weight gain, and overall suppression of immune function.

stress response fight or flight hormones psychology
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