(or, what happens in your body when you're under stress?)
In general, all the bodily changes that occur while under stress are immediately life-saving in nature. That is, each of them makes the human body more primed for decisive action, as if we were in immediate physical danger (never mind that most of the threats we face day to day are psychological or interpersonal in nature, not physical; our bodies still click into red alert as if what we need to do is fight or run for our life. But that's another story.).

Two things happen:

  1. All nonessential bodily activities (meaning, any body function that is not immediately life-saving in nature) are slowed, become less efficient.

  2. All immediately life-saving activities are speeded up, become more efficient.

    And although the stress response means that numerous things happen instantaneously, it's likely that you are more aware of some of them more than others. You'll "notice" some things more readily.

THE BODILY CHANGES ASSOCIATED
WITH THE STRESS RESPONSE
ARE A GOOD THING
The changes are good because they can help you to begin to take steps to alleviate stress before it builds and builds to high levels. Truth is, most people are rather oblivious to the small stress indicators and don't begin to take notice until they become impossible to avoid.


So what we're going to do is provide a brief list of the kinds of physiological changes associated with the stress response in hopes that it will help you to increase your awareness of the times you are under stress.

The list (associated with each link below) is pretty straightforward, and involves two major pathways in the human body:

Pathway #1
The Central Nervous System
Pathway #2
The Endocrine, or Hormonal, System