The stress response is actually part of a larger response known as the “general adaptation syndrome”
To fully understand how to combat stress, it is important to understand the general adaptation syndrome. The general adaptation syndrome is composed of three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
These phases are largely controlled and regulated by the adrenal glands. .
The initial response to stress is the alarm reaction which is often referred to as the “fight or flight response”. .
The fight or flight response is triggered by reactions in the brain which ultimately cause the pituitary gland
to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which causes the adrenals to secrete adrenaline and other
Blood sugar levels increase dramatically as the liver converts stored glycogen into glucose for release into the bloodstream for energy.
While the alarm phase is usually short-lived, the next phase – the resistance reaction – allows the body to continue fighting a stressor long after the effects of the fight or flight response have worn off. .
Other hormones, such as cortisol and other corticosteroids secreted by the adrenal cortex, are largely responsible for the resistance reaction. .
For example, these hormones stimulate the
conversion of protein to energy, so that the body has
a large supply of energy long after glucose stores are depleted, and promote the retention of sodium to keep blood pressure elevated.
The resistance reaction provides the changes required for meeting emotional crisis, performing strenuous tasks and fighting infection.
While the effects of stress hormones are necessary when the body is faced with danger, prolongation of the resistance reaction or continued stress increases the risk of significant disease (including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer) and results in the final stage of the general adaptation syndrome, which is exhaustion.
Thankfully, the relaxation response can be achieved through
a variety of techniques.
The most popular techniques are meditation, prayer, acupuncture, deep breathing, exercise and biofeedback.
To produce the desired long-term health benefits, the relaxation technique of choice should be utilized on a daily basis.
In addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, exercise is important in maintaining overall health and wellness, including hormonal balance.
Yoga stretches gently stretch and effectively relax every muscle in the body, promoting blood circulation and tissue oxygenation, including the endocrine (hormone-producing and secreting) glands.
Biofeedback requires the patient’s intensive and regular participation, as it is largely a learned skill.
The patient learns over time, with regular practice, how to control normally involuntary functions such as heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and muscle tension.
Biofeedback has been used successfully as adjunctive treatment to reduce anxiety, combat chronic insomnia and fatigue, alleviate depression, reduce hyperactivity and ADD/ADHD, help overcome alcoholism, drug addiction or other addictions and control high blood.
Acupuncture has been found to reduce the stress induced elevations of stress hormones.
Acupuncture supports the parasympathetic nervous system which will decrease the dominance of the “fight of flight” mode, ultimately creating a more balance nervous system.