A Stressor is something that causes your body to respond in a way that prepares you to either fight or run away (take flight). The “fight or flight” response causes your body to:
- Increase your blood pressure and heart beat so you are ready to move
- Release sugar and fat into the blood so you can use them for energy
- Increase blood flow (and oxygen) to your legs and arms so they can move quickly
- Make your blood thicker and stickier so that if you get cut or injured during the “fight” you can stop bleeding faster
People needed the fight or flight response many years ago, when we had to fight off or run away from saber-toothed tigers and other large predators. It was absolutely necessary for our bodies to respond this way in order to survive. Once we had escaped the danger, the fight or flight response would stop.
Today, it is not very common for us to be in dangerous physical situations where a fight or flight response is helpful. Our stressors today are more likely to be work, home, and money related. For example, a demanding boss may stress you out, but having your body respond for a fight or flight situation when you are stuck sitting behind a desk is not necessary or useful. You are very unlikely to start a fistfight with your boss or to get up and run away from your boss. Also, problems at work, home, or with money do not typically go away quickly. They tend to linger, resulting in “chronic stress.” Being under chronic stress puts you at risk of your heart disease becoming worse.
These pages can help you figure out if you are experiencing high stress levels and what you can do about them.