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Physiological responses to stress

Student looking a computer with stressed expression

Life can throw lots of stressful situations at you and these stresses may be environmental or psychological. These stresses may release stress hormones that can produce physiological responses in your body. 

Physiological responses to stress can include heart pounding and breathing quickly. When you are responding to stress in these situations you may also experience muscle tension and sweating.

These physiological to stress responses are designed to keep us safe. We are programmed to run or fight if we are in danger. However in a modern world these responses can go into overdrive and overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening.

What are some physiological responses to stress?

Most us have heard of these physiological responses as  ‘fight or flight’ responses. However over the years, researchers have looked at why these reactions occur and have gained insight into the long term effects of chronic stress on individuals.

Long-term stress takes a toll on the body. As a consequence long-term stress may lead to high blood pressure and formation of artery-clogging deposits.  Brain changes that may contribute to anxiety and depression may also occur. Stress may also contribute to obesity through causing people to eat too much or by contributing to decreased sleep and exercise.

Can we develop techniques to counter stress responses?

The good news is we can learn techniques to help us reduce the stress response.

Using Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation Techniques include deep breathing and visualisation. You may also experiment with repetitive soothing words or yoga. Using these relaxation Techniques can elicit a relaxation response in your body.

Physical activity

You can use exercise to reduce your physical symptoms of stress. Forms of exercise you can engage in are as simple as going for a walk and breathing deeply. These techniques can help reduce muscle tension. Movement such as yoga, tai chi and stretches use fluid movements. These exercises which involve focus and deep breathing can induce a sense of calm.

Social support

Social support has been shown to reduce symptoms of chronic stress. Talking to friends or family and colleagues creates a sense of connectedness.

Medical support

If you feel like your stress symptoms are becoming constant, please visit your GP to access a mental health plan or supports specific to your needs.


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