As soon as you feel stressed your sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear preparing your body to fight or flee from whatever is causing you stress…
Soon after the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) Axis comes into play. As you can see in the diagram below the hypothalamus notifies the pituitary gland which then sends a hormone to the adrenals, which tells it to stimulate the production of the hormone cortisol.
Cortisol has a number of effects on the body including:
- Increased heart and respiratory rates
- Slowing down digestion
- Putting immune system ‘on hold’
- Causing blood to flow to large muscle groups
- Increasing levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood – glucose is a major source of energy for your cells
It’s important to note, that the HPA Axis has widespread effects on the body, beyond cortisol…
- releasing hormones.
- regulating body temperature
- maintaining daily physiological cycles
- controlling appetite
- managing of sexual behaviour
- regulating emotional responses
The pituitary gland is often called the “master gland” because its hormones control other glands including the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes.
The problems arise when untreated chronic stress persists the HPA Axis can become dysregulated and impact the body in many ways:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Incorporating stress management techniques is vital to help boost resiliency and manage the body’s reaction to stress.
Please – take your time – be gentle with yourself as you step into making changes – to feel more calm, centred and resilient.