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Where stress affects the body

By July 2, 2019August 5th, 2020No Comments

Sarah Linton

Professional & Personal Coach

Making friends with STRESS so you can REST & DIGEST before it gets the better of you.


Stress can affect all aspects of our lives, including our emotions, behaviours, thinking ability, and physical health.

Spoiler alert! No part of our body is immune. We all handle stress differently so symptoms of stress can vary and can often go undiagnosed until we become depleted in that burnout zone.

Let’s face it we are human – we all have levels of stress in our lives. No B/S here. Our response to short term stress is critical to our survival. Stress & anxiety are messages to our brains which interprets we are under threat.

Our brain has evolved to handle threats by powering the fight or flight response – ready for action.

Photograph by _______ from ______

The 5 Step Stress Response -pathway To Fight & Flight

1) Amygdala (responsible for emotional processing) sends a distress signal to trigger ⇒

2) Hypothalamus (the command centre) in the brain sends a perceived danger signal to activate ⇒

3) Sympathetic Nervous System releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which travels to ⇒

4) The Pituitary Gland triggering ⇒

5) Adrenal Glands to release adrenalin & cortisol.

Our body is now in high alert state prepared to deal with the perceived danger… much of this happens before we are even aware.

We can boost our immune systems by strengthening our social networks & decreasing our stress.

The Stress Hormone – Cortisol

The Stress response releases the STRESS hormone CORTISOL. Cortisol is produced from cholesterol in the 2 Adrenal Glands that sit on top of each kidney.

Cortisol is hugely important & affects nearly every cell in the body.
It is crucial to protect overall health & wellbeing

Role Of Cortisol

1) Assists regulate blood sugar levels
2) Regulates metabolism
3) Helps reduce inflammation
4) Assists with memory formulation.
5) Helps balance salt and water balance & regulates blood pressure
6) In women, cortisol also supports developing foetus during pregnancy.

Our brains are unable to distinguish between physiological & physical stress and think we are continually being chased by the Sabre-toothed tigers, Lions or Bears.

When our cortisol levels are raised, it stimulates our “Fight, Flight or Freeze” response.

Cortisol partners with Adrenaline and gets our body ready to run – fast!

Symptoms & Why

1) Elevated heart rate – to pump adrenaline around the body

2) Breathe becomes more rapid –to increase oxygen intake

3) Pupil dilations – to increase light in the eyes

4) Sweat production – to regulate temperature

5) Muscles tighten

6) Pulse Rate & Blood pressure rise

7) Increased blood flow to the muscles in our arms and legs to allow us to respond to a physical threat – ie Run fast away from that tiger!

8) Diverts blood flow from the stomach and closes down digestion – you can’t digest anything in your stomach when you are running from that tiger! – to increase energy to other essential functions.

So when this part of the brain is activated, it takes from the rational parts of the brain needed for logic, problem-solving & emotional responses.

After the physical danger has passed, our system works hard to return hormone levels to normal. When the stressors remain – the cortisol levels continue to be released into our system.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have learned not only how & why these reactions occur but have also gained insight into the long-term effects chronic stress has on physical and psychological health – it’s not a pretty picture and we are passionate to you become aware of your stressors and develop an action plan to remove them!

If you are curious to know more, take a look at this article that explains the Science behind Understanding the Stress Response in more depth.

The 3 techniques that they prioritise to counter the stress response include:

1) Relaxation.

2) Physical Activity. Get moving in whatever way works for you. Keep your heart rate up through movement.

3) Connect with Social Companions.   A connection is vital for our sense of belonging and wellbeing. We are human and a social species.

SELF CARE is vital in the management of our Stressors.

See 9 Powerful & Easy Hacks to Reduce Stress – NOW

“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances.
It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”
– Andrew Bernstein


  • Our bodies work in over drive when we are affected by stress
  • Many organs in our bodies are impacted
  • Lowering Cortisol levels is essential for our health
  • Self Care is vital in managing stress
  • Breath to slow down, move to release & reach out to connect.


Are you feeling that you are in fight, flight or freeze mode  more often than you would like? Where are the stressors in your life?
Leave a comment below

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Sarah Linton

Sarah Linton

Sarah Linton is a Catalyst for change and impact specialising in making change a reality for personal and professional evolution. A former business leader at global organisations including the Walt Disney Company. A Director, Master Coach, Mum and Founder of Tides of Change & The Sarah is passionately connected to her True North as a prolific creator of new horizons & holding that as a vision for her clients partnering across time zones in the UK, USA & Asia Pacific.

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