Stress Response – Fight or Flight
The Stress response is controlled by our Endocrine System. It reacts instantly; without conscious control. It is an innate process designed to save our life – when something causes us stress and creates demands on the mind and body which results in stress hormone secretion (Adrenaline, testosterone).
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
The body is ‘instantly’ ready to fight or run for survival. The high blood pressure and increased heart beats forces extra blood to the brain and body muscles. This supplies oxygen to the muscles to do what is required to defend you.
Increase in blood fats
Your liver pumps out cholesterol and other fuels into the blood to give us enough energy to fight or run for our lives. In natural circumstances your body expects this fuel to be used up quite quickly. But; what if you are sat behind a desk and not burning it away? Simple; that fat starts to clog your arteries.
The rapid and deeper breathing allow gas exchange to increase – more oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. You need to power that action!
The muscles get filled with extra blood so they tighten a little which allows more rapid movement as required to fight or run.
Increased mental alertness
The brain is full of oxygen so your mental awareness increases significantly. There is also large amounts of adrenaline there too – this gives the effect of allowing the brain to work faster, reaction time gets shorter and we see things in ‘slow motion’.
Increased pupil dilation
This dilation allows the eye to see more. The wider the pupil allows more light in from a greater the field of view. This created much better peripheral vision.
Increased metabolism and Perspiration
All this ‘extra activity’ increases the metabolism so we get hotter. The perspiration is there to cool us down so we don’t overheat.
As you can see the stress response is very powerful and not easy to control, especially if you do not have any training in stress management techniques. Come to see us at our Dartford office.
General Adaption Syndrome – GAS
General Adaption Syndrome is due to extreme stress and can lead to Burnout!
If a person is suffering long term stress their body has to adapt to it. Humans are not designed for long term stress. Stress should happen then disappear in a short period of time. If not they suffer from General Adaption Syndrome usually known as GAS.
Think about a herd of gazelles – they are attacked by lions and all run for their lives. The lions catch either the old one with a limp or a young one – neither can run fast. The rest of the gazelles all stop running and start eating the grass again. Stress over! No GAS situation developing here.
Unfortunately, this does not often happen in our over-stressful artificial environment.
The sympathetic nervous system creates the stress response the parasympathetic nervous system switches the stress response off.
There are three phases to General Adaption Syndrome:
This is the “ Fight or Flight” response that prepares the body for immediate action. This is talked about on other pages.
If the source of stress is ongoing, the body has to prepare for long-term protection. It secrets hormones to increase blood sugar levels and other chemicals. This adaption phase is common and not harmful in the beginning – in fact it is protecting us. This is the time that the General Adaption Syndrome starts to develop.
However; it must include periods of relaxation and adequate rest to counterbalance the stress response. If this does not happen then damage starts to happen fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy result as the stress turns negative and harmful. This more harmful part of the adaption phase can lead to the adrenal glands failing due to exhaustion.
In chronic stress situations, the sufferers enter the exhaustion phase and most damaging part of General Adaption Syndrome:
- emotional, physical and mental resources suffer heavily
- the body experiences ‘ adrenal exhaustion’
- which leads to decreased stress tolerance
- progressive mental and physical exhaustion
- eventually resulting in illness and collapse – total ‘Burn Out’.
There is permanent damage done. Stress is not the same as ill-health, but has been related to such illnesses as:
- Cardiovascular disease – heart attacks, angina
- Immune system disease – increase in allergies, food intolerances and arthritis
- Immune system weakness – white blood cell count drops dramatically
- Wounds can take up to 25% longer to heal
- Digestive disorders – IBS and nausea
- Skin complaints – psoriasis and eczema
- Headaches and migraines
- Pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms get worse
It is unfortunate that most people do not know they are suffering General Adaption Syndrome until it is too late.