Stress, Health, and Healing

Every day, life presents us with events and stimuli, both internal and external, that cause us stress. The normal stress response is actually a positive process. Stress is responsible for the fight or flight response, which is a critical survival response. Although we humans are no longer running away from lions and bears (at least not most of us and not on a regular basis), this response is still essential for avoiding being hit by a car or running to grab your toddler before she runs into the street. This important stress response is very fast-acting. Within seconds, our adrenal glands secrete hormones into our bloodstream that act to increase our heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar so that our muscles and brains can react rapidly. Once a threat has passed, other body systems act to restore normal functioning.

However, if the stress response goes on too long, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided, the body never receives the signal that the threat has passed and normal functioning is not restored. Hormones that elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose continue to be released.

With chronic stress, the same neurochemicals that are life-saving in short bursts are continually released and can suppress functions that aren't needed for immediate survival. Immunity is lowered and the digestive, endocrine, excretory, and reproductive systems stop working normally. We are constantly in fight or flight mode and react to normal events as if they are threatening.

Continued strain on the body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety disorder, and other