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The Stress Reaction

The Stress Reaction

When we perceive a stressor, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, real or perceived, physical or psychological the part of the brain that is linked to the hippocampul system makes the decision via another part of the brain as to whether the perceived or real threat needs to be acted upon. Bearing in mind however that the threat can be conscious, unconscious, physical or even psychological, it is the perception that is important.

If the threat is perceived as such, the Hypothalamus steps in, this activates the body in preparation for the fight or flight. The nerve impulses are stimulated and the autonomic nervous system is then started up. The hypothalamus is responsible for this and gives us those characteristically fight or flight symptoms. It does this as it has control over things like temperature control, heart rate, blood pressure and other functions associated with the fight or flight. That fight or flight essential to our survival, as it warns us of dangers to us whether real or perceived so that we may act accordingly.

The hypothalamus also activates the pituitary gland, also known as the master gland, which is situated beneath the hypothalamus. This hypothalamus releases corticotrophin which in turn then stimulates the anterior pituitary gland. The anterior pituitary gland being responsible for the secretion of ACTH (adreocorticotropic hormone), this hormone stimulates the adrenal cortex, which is situated above the kidneys, this then produces cortisol. When the cortisol is released it does three things:-

• Inhibits protein synthesis

• Promotes fatty acids

• Stimulates glucose formation

These actions prepare the body for physical action, supplying those cells with the necessary substances that may be required during stressful times, the fight or flight activation. At the same time this occurs, the adrenal medulla is stimulated and secretes adrenaline and noradrenalin which are the hormones necessary in the physical reactions to stress. For example increased heart rate, increase in muscle tone and other symptoms associated with fight or flight.

With all of this happening the bodies growth hormone is stirred up and making it grow, pumping blood and energy to the major muscle areas ready fort hat fight or flight. It then decides on how we discharge that energy, or how we do not discharge it dependant on the factors involved, the latter however being dangerous as it builds up and can get to the point of burnout.

When the body is stimulated we then decide how the stressor is dealt. If we use physical activity, then the stress may subside naturally and our bodies return to an equal state, homeostasis. If we do not deal with it then, we internalise it and it builds up inside us, creating tension until we blow our tops.

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