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What Is Stress?

Stress is what we call your body’s natural reaction to an urgent situation.  Google defines it as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  Essentially, when your body senses the need for an urgent response, your body releases a surge of hormones to prepare for immediate action.

One of the hormones released is called Adrenaline, which increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and increases your body’s energy levels.  Imagine you’re driving down the highway.  You’ve been cruising for hours at a steady 65 MPH, when all of a sudden a deer runs out in front of your car.  You’ve got to react quickly!  This rush of Adrenaline gets your body ready for action and helps you respond quickly by pressing the brake and swerving to miss the unsuspecting creature in front of you.

Another hormone that is released in this kind of situation is called Cortisol.  Cortisol is the hormone that plays the biggest role in stressful situations.  It increases the release of sugars to your body (for energy) and increases your ability to process information quickly.  It also increases your body’s ability to heal and to repair itself in case of injury.  But that’s not all Cortisol does for you.  

While boosting these essential functions for dealing with stress, Cortisol also shuts down your non-essential functions, such as your digestive system, your appetite, your reproductive system, your immune system, and your body’s natural growth processes.

All of this works together to help you perform at optimal capacity when you’re faced with “adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  It can very well save your life when you need it.  And so this raises a very important question that we must face when looking at stress in our lives:  Is stress inherently bad?

Continue to Is Stress Inherently Bad? ->
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