Recall driving in traffic trying to stay calm and focused when a car cuts you off and you slam your brakes. You sigh with the relief of avoiding an accident but your body doesn't know that. This is known as the flight or fight syndrome or stress response. The cavemen often found themselves in situations where they were face to face with animals twice their size and they had the option to run or attack back. Either action requires intense muscular function which is supported by the physiological response of increased heart and lung action and hormonal responses which trigger release of nutrients like fat and glucose. The extra energy and blood rush was a key survival mechanism for the cavemen and as our environments evolved from hunting and gathering to driving, grocery shopping, emailing, and texting unfortunately our physiology didn't get the memo to inhibit this response. Why is this bad? When your body is experiencing stress it releases the stress hormone cortisol. In small amounts Cortisol has some positive benefits like a quick burst of energy for survival reasons or lower sensitivity to pain. But it is important that the body returns back to a state of relaxation after this response. Unfortunately in our high stress culture our body does not get the opportunity to return back to a relaxed state and in turn we experience chronic stress. This results in higher blood cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time meaning higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar, muscle degeneration, and increased FAT! Since our bodies do not use the energy that is sparked by this response it eventually gets stored as fat, pair that with high blood sugar and high blood pressure and you have an equation for heart attacks and stroke.
Before you start thinking you are doomed, here are some tips to relax your body and mind and prevent chronic stress:
Also check out this article for more info Top 10 Stress Relievers: The Best Ways to Feel Better.
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