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What Is a Stress Response?

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Updated July 01, 2013

What Is a Stress Response?

Your body's stress response is triggered by the perception of stress, and affects virtually all areas of your body.

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Definition: Your stress response is the collection of physiological changes that occur when you face a perceived threat—when you face situations where you feel the demands outweigh your resources to successfully cope. (These situations are known as stressors.)

When your stress response is triggered, a series of changes occur within your body. They include:

  • A quickening of your pulse
  • A burst of adrenaline
  • Redirection of blood away from extremities and instead to major organs
  • The release of cortisol and other hormones, which bring other short- and long-term changes.
(See this resource on the fight or flight response for a complete list.)

The stress response is intended to give you a burst of energy so you’re able to fight off attackers or run away from them effectively. This helped our ancestors, who faced numerous physical threats, to stay safe.

However, now our threats tend to be less physical and more associated with our way of life—a challenge to our status, a demand for performance, etc. In addition to giving us a set of changes that may not match our needs as well (it might be more effective for us to have a burst of mental clarity or wisdom than a burst of physical strength, for example), the stress response can actually cause harm if it leads to a state of chronic stress—that is, if our stress response is triggered, and then our body doesn’t go back to its normal state via the relaxation response.

Therefore, it’s important and healthy to find a collection of strategies that can help reverse the body’s stress response, and bring it back its natural state. A good first step would be to see this article on How To Calm Down Quickly. You can also subscribe to the Stress Management Newsletter or Stress Management RSS Feed to get regular information in ‘easily digestible’ portions.

Also Known As: Fight-Or-Flight Response, Fight or Flight Response, Stress Reaction
Examples:
"My body's stress response is really triggered now. I should go peruse About.com Stress Management for some tips!"

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