The physical response to stress


The mental and physical response to adapt to real or perceivedchanges and life challenges is termed as stress. According to Heaneyet al. (2014), any perceived or real physical, psychological orsocial event that causes the body to react and respond is referred toas a stressor. Too much stress just like any other thing overemphasized can be poisonous.

Research objectives

  • This research aims at investigating what stress does to the body

  • The immediate responses to stress

  • What affects does stress and eustress have on body functions

Literature review

Everybody reacts to stress in a unique manner but one thing thatremains constant is what the body does when stressed. The body goesthrough three phases in an effort to cope with prolonged stress. Theimmediate and long-term responses of stress are divided into threephases. The alarm stage is the first stage whereby a stressordisrupts the body’s stability temporarily lowering resistance.Fight flight response is the physiological response at this stage asone of the innate survival instincts responding to stress. The mindperceives a stressor as the cerebral cortex interprets the eventtriggering an autonomic nervous system to prepare the body foraction. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are part ofthe ANS. As the sympathetic nervous system energizes the body to fleeor fight signaling stress hormone release, parasympathetic slowssystems stimulated to stress response counteracting the actions ofsympathetic branch. The hypothalamus controls the sympathetic nervoussystem and determines the overall stressors(Everly &amp Lating, 2013).

On perceiving extra energy, the hypothalamus triggers the release ofepinephrine hormone also referred to as adrenaline. This leads toincreased blood pumping and consequently increased oxygen intake,breathing rate and stimulation of the liver to release more glucose.Pupils dilate to improve visual sight as the body becomes poised toact immediately. Fight or flee response can also trigger longer-termreactions to stress with the hypothalamus sending chemical messagesto the brains pituitary gland for the release of ACTH.Adrenocotrophic hormone signals the adrenal glands to releasecortisol hormone asserts Heaney et al. (2014). This hormone makesstored nutrients readily available for meeting energy demands asother parts of the brain release endorphins to relieve the paincaused by stressors.

The second phase is the resistance or denial stage where the bodytries to restore itself to homeostasis through resisting alarmresponses. The body however does not achieve complete calm as someperceived stressor still exists but stays activated causing highermetabolic rates to the organ tissues. Body organs and systems workovertime. The last phase is the exhaustion stage. It results from theprolonged efforts to adapt to stress response leading to allostaticload. The allostatic load also means an exhaustive wear or worn outbody. According to Everly and Lating (2013), the physical andemotional energy get drained off, as the body adjusts to chronicunresolved stress slowly. Released cortisol hormone by the adrenalglands remains in the blood stream making metabolic responsivenessslower. The blood pressure can be elevated leading to vulnerabilityto diseases as the body ability to control glucose levels areaffected.

Despite all those changes that the body goes through sometimes,stress is said not be necessarily bad. Stress and eustress havedifferent affects on the body. Eustress is the positive stresspresenting an opportunity for satisfaction personal growth. Thepositive type of stress can actually improve one’s health andrejuvenate them to look at life from the positive angle. Events thatcause eustress include getting a child, getting married, promotion atwork, winning great awards are examples of life events that triggerpositive energy and pleasurable rush. Distress is quite the oppositeof eustress and is negative stress caused by events that result indebilitative tension such as death asserts Mortillaro &amp Scherer(2014). Chronic and acute stresses are two types of distress that canaffect one’s stability. They lead to emotional breakdown, anger,grief, guilt, loneliness and depression if not well solved.

In conclusion, physical effects of stress include cardiovasculardiseases, diabetes, hypertension, digestive problems, hair loss,acne, headaches, nausea, impaired immunity. Psychological effects ofstress are memory loss, concentration problems and low libido arguesEverly and Lating (2013). The best type of stress is moderate levelof stress, which is not too much or too little but just enough for aproductive manner.


Everly, G.S., &amp Lating, J. M. (2013).&nbspAclinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response,New York: Springer.

Heaney, J. Caroll, D. &amp Phillips, A. (2014). ‘Physicalactivity, life events stress, cortisol and DHEA: Preliminaryfindings that physical activity may buffer against the negativeeffects of stress.’ Journal of aging &ampphysical activity,22(4), 465-473

Mortillaro, M. &amp Scherer, K.(2014).’Stressed Out: How stressdevelops and how to cope with it,’Gfk marketing intelligencereview, 6(1), 16-21