Isn't it annoying that the body reacts to stressors the same way it did in prehistoric times?! So, that big presentation you have or that fast-approaching deadline you must meet is the same physical reaction as if you were getting ready to run away from a bear. The stress response is called The General Adaptation Syndrome which has 3 phases.
Phase 1: Alarm Reaction (fight or flight). This is where your body releases adrenaline and other stress hormones into the blood stream. In this phase your body is mobilizing all of its available resources for immediate physical activity. You will feel the your heart beat, your breathing rate will increase, and you will also start sweating. This is a great response to stress if you lived in the forest and had to hide from predators but in today's world it can interfere with daily life and create health problems if this is a chronic response.
Phase 2: Resistance: This is where your body continues to fight the stressors (or run from the bear) after the effects of the alarm reaction have worn off. During this phase the body releases cortisol and other corticosteroids to stimulate the conversion of protein to glucose so that you can have a large supply of energy. This is great if you are fighting for your life or stalking prey but in today's world it means that having a large workload and deadlines can actually increase your waistline!
Phase 3: Exhaustion: Chronic stress places a tremendous load on the body (and the adrenal glands) which can lead to a variety of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, depression, hypertension, and many more. For example, have you ever had a huge event or presentation in which you pushed to complete and then right after everything was finished got really sick?
So how do we deal with the daily stress in our lives without getting sick? Here are some great ways to manage stress:
Exercise! work off that stress naturally by letting your body move and burn off that adrenaline.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: taking deep breaths increases oxygen and reduces blood pressure.
Decrease Caffeine: drinking coffee and caffeine can exacerbate stress symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.
Emotional Support: learn coping strategies to deal with chronic stress and establish a strong support network.
Adrenal Support: this is key for dealing with stress.