Nature and Physiology of Stress

Emotional vs. Physical

Human beings are the only animals capable of thinking themselves into stressful situations. We are the only creatures "blessed with the agility to become very anxious about the past and the future. Emotional stress results from the processing of the past and the future where a physical stress is the body's autonomic response to a physical situation. Even exercise elicits a physical stress response releasing adrenaline into the blood stream. (Runner's High) Chemicals released between the two kinds of stress are different. Only two chemicals (norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are commonly called adrenaline) are released during physical danger, or exercise. A third chemical (Cortisol) is released only during emotional or psychological stress. This chemical breaks down lean tissue to produce the extra boost of sugars, as well as allows excess acid into your system, which can cause ulcers.


  • "Butterflies in the Stomach"

This is really just blood being directed to the major muscle groups because it's more important to be alert when in danger than digest food.

  • Have you ever been out of breath after being scared?

Breathing gets faster to supply more oxygen to your muscles.

  • Pounding Heart?

The heart rate increases, and blood pressure skyrockets to supply more blood to the necessary muscles.

  • Antiperspirant companies love stressful situations!

Perspiration increases to cool your body, which allows you to burn more energy.

  • Do you ever find that you have a stiff back or neck after a stressful day?

Muscles tense to prepare for fight or flight in response to an anxiety-producing situation.

  • Have you ever noticed that if you cut yourself in a dangerous situation, the wound stops bleeding more rapidly than usual?

Chemicals are released to help blood clot faster.

  • Have you ever been surprised at the amount of energy or strength you have in an emergency?

Sugars and fats pour into your blood stream to provide fuel for quick energy.

  • Ulcers?

During an alarm reaction, hydrochloric acid is released into the stomach, which is empty, or if repeated over a long period of time, can burn the stomach lining, esophagus, and upper intestines.



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