How stress impacts your body and your physiology- Mind body connection
A stressor (event which creates a stress response) can be a stimulus or threat that causes stress, e.g. exam, divorce, death of loved one, moving house, begin diagnosed with a disease etc. For our purpose, stressor can be divided into two categories, physical stressors and psychological stressors. Physical stressor can be life events or environmental circumstances such as extreme heat, cold, lack of food or water etc, whereas psychological stress can be defined as a “reaction to a perceived demand”. Psychological “threats” can be created as a mental state by unconsciously identifying with stories we keep telling ourself about ourself. E.g you may have a stomach ache, and begin to “imagine” (telling yourself stories) that this is the symptom of a serious illness, what is likely to happen to you as a result this illness, what will happen to your quality of life, who will look after you, so on and so forth. Before long you will begin to experience emotions such as fear and anxiety, which will also manifest as physical sensations in your body, such as a pounding heart beat, sweating, dry throat, butterflies in the stomach.
When we are stressed (feeling threatened), it triggers a whole range of biochemical and physiological changes in our bodies. These include:-
Pupils dilate Sweat production increases Saliva dries up Respiration and breathing increases Blood clotting increases Hormones such adrenaline or cortisol increase Digestive system slows Urine production decreases Blood pressure increases Heart beat increases Muscles tense Bowel and Bladder sphincter close Increased central nervous system (CNS) activity and mental activity Increased output of blood cholesterol
These biological changes are necessary for the body in order to take appropriate actions to eliminate the threat. This process can be divided into three phases, alarm, reaction/resistance and exhaustion.
1. Alarm phase, the body automatically organizes physiological responses to fight-flight-freeze responses to threat. 2. Reaction and Resistance phase enables the body to continue its response, stabilizing the body’s adaptations to stress. 3. The Exhaustion phase is when the body has depleted its reserves and can no longer maintain responses to the stressors
It is obvious that our mind influences our physiology, this is our everyday experience. Stress, fear, anger, anxiety & depression are all psychological (mental and emotional) manifestations that then affect the body, its biochemistry and its functions. A majority of illnesses such as high blood pressure, Diabetes type II, skin rashes, headaches, and even cancers are related to our mental and emotional states. To treat any disease, it is critical to begin with the mind. However, since the biomedical model completely ignores this, we have deteriorating health situation, in which physiological affects are controlled by toxic chemicals, which then lead to more imbalances and therefore more intervention and drugs. The question to ask is, why is it that the biomedical model of health ignores the mind-body connection?