Last week we had a look at the response of the heart, lungs, circulatory system and immune system to acute stress. Next, let’s look at the response of the mouth, throat, skin and metabolism to the reaction of acute stress. We will also look at the body’s relaxation response as the stress response winds down.
Once again, I will need you to imagine the lioness scenario for you to better understand these responses. For those of you who joined this blog for the first time, here is the scenario again:
You are visiting a lion park, and one of their lionesses accidentally escapes their cage. Unfortunately, you are not in a car, as you are allowed to walk around among the cages. The lioness is now chasing you.
THE BODY’S RESPONSE TO ACUTE STRESS:
Mouth and throat:
As the lioness gets closer to you, fluids are diverted from unnecessary locations such as the mouth and throat. This causes dryness in the mouth and difficulty talking. In addition, stress can cause spasms in the throat muscles that make it difficult to swallow.
At this point in time, the stress effect moves blood flow away from the skin to support major organs such as the heart and muscle tissues. This will also reduce blood loss should the lioness wound you. The visible effect will be cool, clammy, sweaty skin. The scalp will also tighten so that it may seem that your hair is standing up.
During short-term periods of hard physical work or crisis, stress reduces digestive activity as it is not essential.
The relaxation response:
If the lioness decides that she does not want to eat you, turns around and walks away, all stress hormones return to normal levels. This is known as the relaxation response. You know that phew moment? After this, the body’s systems will also return to normal.
I trust that this explanation of the body’s responses will give you a clear indication of what exactly happens to your body in times of acute stress. You can only imagine what chronic stress will do to your body and the harm it can cause if you don’t seek help very soon. It’s important to remember that there is help out there, whether you are a healthy individual going through a stressful time or a chronically stressed person.
Next week we will have a look at risk factors for stress in people, which factors cause people to become stressed, as well as which individuals are at higher risk for stress.
Until next week,
All information in this blog was researched for this blog, and is not intended for self-diagnosis or to be used as medical advice. All medical questions should be directed to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or pharmacist.
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