Your stomach flips and you feel sick just before going into a high-pressure meeting. What happens in the body for mental feelings to become physical ones, and can this be stopped?
This is a sensation that almost everyone has had at some point. You have a big meeting or date coming up, and your stomach feels like it’s going to turn inside out.
Surely you have considered the possibility that your enthusiasm or thoughts could be causing your stomach to get unsettled. So here’s what’s going on.
The autonomic nervous system is in charge of things that happen in our bodies even when we don’t want them to.
It is split into two complementary systems: the parasympathetic, which is activated during routine or rest, and the sympathetic, which is triggered under stressful situations.
The latter looks out for our bodies in times of need and is in charge of the fight-or-flight response system that aids the body in defending itself or fleeing from danger.
It’s a way for humans and other mammals to respond physically when they feel their lives are in danger.
When the system is turned on, what happens to the body?
When we are under stress, our senses recognize it and react accordingly: the pupils dilate, the hearing sharpens, the breathing quickens, the heartbeat becomes faster and stronger, the blood vessels tighten, and the blood pressure rises to pump more blood throughout the body, especially to the muscles.
The adrenal gland also releases hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol). These are in charge of a more effective and quick metabolism, which breaks down sugar reserves and releases energy into critical tissues.
The digestive system slows down because it may momentarily be unnecessary as the body devotes significant resources to the most essential organs. We might have nausea or stomach ache.
Diarrhea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome—all of which are connected to stress—can occur when the body is under prolonged or continuous stress.
Every American has been in a tense situation at some point, whether it is COVID alerts, shootouts, or even someone following you in the dark.
However, everyday challenges like exams, employment, or family conflicts can cause stress and trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
Chronic activation can result in physical changes that have an impact on us and is a contributing factor in conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
Can anything bad happen if the system is constantly on high alert?
Long-term storage of secreted hormones in the blood can impair the immune system, exacerbate sleep issues, and cause muscles to shrivel.
Long-term high blood pressure destroys blood arteries, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.
People who are under stress frequently overeat or consume unhealthy meals, smoke, and drink excessively. Stress causes weight gain, heartburn, and abdominal pain, and it may even cause stomach ulcers.
When we are stressed, our head and neck muscles constrict, which causes headaches and migraines.
Avoiding long-term stress
Get help from your doctor. To reduce risk factors, use lipids or antihypertensive drugs. To control diet, dietitians should be contacted.
Use relaxation techniques, such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation. Consult your family, friends, or mental health professionals.
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