Our bodies are designed with what is known as the fight or flight response. When we feel threatened, our bodies release hormones that prepare us to face danger or flee from it. Adrenaline and cortisol are two hormones associated with the fight or flight response. Adrenaline increases the heart rate and blood pressure while cortisol increases blood sugar.
Imagine walking down a street and suddenly a tiger jumps out– hormones provide the extra energy and physical ability to flee. Once the incident is over, the hormone levels return to normal. However when a person faces danger or stressful situations almost daily, hormone levels remain high and the body remains in a state of heightened alert. As a result, chronic stress can wreak havoc on the mind and body.
Stress triggers vary from person to person. This is not necessarily brought on by negative events. It may also be triggered by happy occasions. Imagine winning a lottery or monetary prize worth millions. For the person who unaccustomed to riches, winning the money may lead to all types of stressful events. There may be long-lost relatives who suddenly appear and ask for financial help, and charities may come knocking at the winner’s door. The individual may not have the financial skills to handle such a windfall and worry about whether he or she will lose it. All of these concerns could cause great stress for the individual.
There are also everyday life events that bring about stress. Getting married, having a baby and getting a new job are all circumstances where those involved may worry about whether they have made the right decision and how the decision will impact the future. This uncertainty leads to stress. Other life events associated with stress include death in the family, divorce, job loss, addiction in the family and similar events.