Stress is part of our everyday lives – everyone gets stressed at some point. It happens when we are in situations that require something extra and the body needs to mobilize power and energy.
When faced with a challenge, wether work or private life, stress can make us focus and perform better. In other words, stress is necessary for us to achieve that little extra. But if the stress lasts for a long time and without recovery, the body can take damage. Therefore, it is important to rest.
It is also individual what stresses us, what stresses you may not affect your partner or colleague and vice versa at all.
Stress affects many parts of the body and can manifest itself in different ways for different people.
The response to stress is about mobilizing energy in situations when the body needs it. Long ago, the stress response helped us survive in situations that required strength and speed in response to a threatening situation. The brain and body decided to either fight the threat – or escape from it. Classic fight or flight, that is. Our bodies respond in the same way today, although we rarely need to mobilize physical forces to deal with stress.
If we cannot fight or run away from the danger, another way of mastering it is to “play dead”.
That program is set in motion when our brain judges that the danger is so great that we cannot escape or fight. It is the parasympathetic nervous system that activates and draws down energy. It leads to fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, low heart rate, low blood pressure, a faint feeling and stomach symptoms.
Most people want to isolate themselves, disappear and limit their social contacts. We feel a great fatigue, become paralyzed and can feel depressed and depressed.
Fight and escape
When our brain interprets a situation as threatening, the sympathetic nervous system is alerted. It is part of our autonomic nervous system, which controls breathing, blood pressure and heart rate, which we cannot affect ourselves by willpower.
Stress hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline are secreted from the adrenal glands and are released into the bloodstream. They have the task of raising heart rate and blood pressure and that there is enough sugar and energy for the muscles and brain for the fight-flight reaction. We become less sensitive to pain and if we get a wound in the fight in the midst of a stress attack, the blood will coagulate faster. Blood flow is redirected so that muscles and brain get more blood while digestion, skin and other organs not needed in the fight for life and death get less.
Not dangerous – if we get a rest late
This strain in the body during a stress reaction is made to activate for a short while. This mobilization of strength and power is neither wrong nor dangerous, provided we can clear the threat and regain balance. We can handle periods of stress without taking damage. It will be detrimental if the stress-strain lasts for a long time without being given time for recovery, rest and sleep. Because when the immediate danger is over, the body needs to recover in order for other important bodily functions to have the opportunity to function as normal again.
Chronic stress also leads to other changes in the brain that are measurable and can explain the cognitive problems experienced by those affected by stress-related fatigue syndrome. The researchers have been able to show that people with fatigue syndrome have a thinning cerebral cortex in a specific area of the forehead lobe. The boiler room is important for our concentration ability and for the ability to organize and plan what we should do. Information can be stored in the boiler room for a shorter period of time, such as when to remember a shopping list.
Using the same technology, the researchers have shown that another area of the brain, the amygdala, is enlarged instead of the fatigued. Amygdala controls how we react to changes in the outside world. In stressful situations, it is the amygdala that activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system and prepares us for fight or flight.
The changes in the structure of the brain as we experience prolonged chronic stress, with no opportunity for recovery can explain why it takes so long for the exhausted to return. New connections between nerve cells need to be re-established and it takes time.
This happens in the body when we are exposed to prolonged stress
• Muscle cells break down as the production of amino acids and proteins decreases.
• Sexual desire decreases. The production of a substance in the hypothalamus, gonotropin, decreases, which lowers the production of LH, a hormone that in men increases the production of testosterone and in women increases the amount of estrogen. Stress thus leads to poorer sexual desire and function, while increasing PMS and menopausal problems.
• The condition deteriorates. Red blood cell production and hemoglobin decrease, leading to poorer oxygenation.
• Mental imbalance. The amount of neurotransmitters that are important to our mental well-being is decreasing. Prolonged stress makes us irritated and impatient. They also affect the energy. We get tired and concentration and memory deteriorate.
• The immune system is deteriorating. Increased levels of cortisol have a direct link to a lowered immune system.
• Abdominal obesity increases. the storage of fat in the body’s fat cells increases.