Whether it’s a short-term frustration like a traffic jam or a major life event like divorce or job loss, psychological stress can affect our bodies.
Stress can be highly personal, with one person’s unpleasant experience another’s exhilarating adventure. And a little bit of stress is thought to be good for memory and motivation. However, about 70% of doctor visits and 80% of serious illnesses may be exacerbated or linked to stress.
Here are 25 ways that stress can affect the body. The good news is that there is much you can do—exercise, meditation, and more—to reduce the impact of stress in your life.
Fight or flight
The stress response has evolved over a millennium to protect you from danger. Also known as the flight-or-fight response, it gets the body ready for action. So if you’re in danger, the brain’s hypothalamus sends triggers—both chemical and along the nerves—to the adrenals, which are glands that sit on top of each kidney like a hat perched on a head.
The adrenals then churn out hormones, such as cortisol, which raise blood pressure and blood sugar (among other things). This is dandy if you need to outrun a hungry lion, less so if the perceived threat is a looming layoff. And it can be harmful to health if sustained over time.