FIGHT OR FLIGHT
Stress is the body’s natural defense against predators and danger. It causes the body to flood with hormones that prepare its systems to evade or confront danger. People commonly refer to this as the »fight-or-flight mechanism«.
Imagine that you are walking in the forest and you suddenly see a bear running towards you!
When you face a challenge or threat, the body activates resources that help people either stay and confront the challenge or get to safety as fast as possible.
You immediately have a physical response: the body produces larger quantities of the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and glucagon), the sympathetic nervous system is activated. The result is an immediate alertness, a faster heartrate that pumps blood throughout the body, deep breathing that brings oxygen, blood full of glucose and heightened muscle preparedness.
These factors all improve a person’s ability to respond to a potentially hazardous or challenging situation.
Stress responses developed to motivate early humans to protect themselves from life-threatening situations. We aren’t facing down predators today, but our body still reacts to modern stressors in the same way.
Long-term stress can be particularly difficult. When stress hormones stay elevated over time, there is a gradual and steady stream of harmful changes to the body. Long-term stress can suppress the immune system, which may lead to the development of diseases.