The Domino Effect Stress Has on Your Health

October 9, 2015

As evolved organisms, we have automatic processes within our bodies that activate in response to threats. When your child becomes upset, your significant other loses their job or your see red and blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror, your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.

This is all well and good for improving our chances at survival, but when we allow stress to set up shop as a daily part of our lives, our health can easily become compromised. Stress hormones affect almost every system of the body, and the better you understand the process, the more equipped you’ll be to stop it. The domino effect goes like this:

Your Brain and Nerves

A perceived threat first stimulates your nervous system, which tells your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones make your heart beat faster and your blood pressure increase. 

Your Muscles

Your muscles respond next with tension, which is a prolonged contraction. If they continue to contract for an extended period of time, the result can be migraines and tension headaches, not to mention muscle fatigue.

Your Lungs

You also begin to breathe more rapidly. Many people become alarmed at their own increased breathing rate, which leads some to panic attacks. Lightheadedness is also a result of extended, rapid breathing.

Your Reproductive System

Severe stress has also caused some women to skip menstrual periods, or for their periods to become more painful. A decreased sex drive is also a common side effect of stress.

Once the stress response is set in motion, if not addressed, the domino effect subjects not only your nerves, muscles, lungs and reproductive system but can also damage your heart.

Immediate coping mechanisms include deep breathing, physical activity like walking or stretching, and connection with loved ones. Long-term stress management approaches include meditation, journaling, talk therapy and massage. Interested in performing some stress management of your own? Schedule a massage at exhale salon and med spa today.