Effects of Stress

Effects of Stress

Causes of Stress

Stress definition: a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances.

Stress is a natural response to external pressures or demands and real or perceived threats which in low levels can be motivational, but is harmful when experienced over an extended period of time. This ongoing chronic stress can be caused by challenges at work or home and difficulties in your personal life such as bereavement, divorce, redundancy or financial worries.

How Your Body Responds to Stress

During everyday life your brain obtains information via your senses (sight, hearing, taste etc) and processes it to help make sense of your external environment and experiences.  When your brain believes this information indicates a threat/risk to your ‘comfort zone’ it communicates this throughout your body, and your body responds by releasing stress hormones and initiating physiological changes.

This process occurs via your vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve that runs from your brain down your neck and into your gut.  The vagus nerve communicates with organs in your body and helps regulate your body’s response to stress.

Your body’s nervous system works autonomously, meaning you have no control over it, and it fluctuates between two states – parasympathetic and sympathetic.

Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system which triggers:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Release of stress hormones to prepare your body for action
  • Slower, poor digestion
  • Muscle tension
  • Reduced blood supply to organs
  • Shallow and faster breathing
  • Selective hearing and mental overwhelm
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased urination and constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilation of your pupils


You also respond by entering one of four states:

Fight: desire for control, feel irritation, aggression or anger

Flight: want to avoid the situation, feel anxious and worried

Freeze: feel stuck, numb and unable to make a decision, desire to withdraw

Fawn: want to please others, fit in and avoid conflict

When your parasympathetic nervous system is activated your body is in a state of rest and digest which triggers:

  • Effective digestion
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increased blood supply to organs resulting in less effort required
  • Slower and deeper breathing
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Deep, restorative sleep
  • Effective waste removal
  • Cellular detox and regeneration

Effects of Chronic Stress

As you can imagine, if your body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated for prolonged periods it can have a destructive impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

This may cause dysfunction of various bodily systems, such as your immune, digestive, and nervous systems, and the hormones produced to increase your body’s glucose levels (to provide greater muscle energy to escape your perceived threat) can result in weight gain.

On a long term basis this can result in a range of health issues including anxiety, depression, migraines, IBS, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and strokes.

Benefits of Reiki for Stress Relief

Receiving face to face or distance reiki can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, your body relaxes and normal function can be restored.  Your immune system is able to function more effectively and your body’s natural healing ability, cellular detox and regeneration can occur.

You may also reduce the risk of developing long standing and/or serious illness if you’re helping support your nervous system with regular reiki.

How Life Coaching can Help to Manage Stress

You can’t avoid stress or control other people’s behaviour/external events, but you can chose perceptions, responses and decisions that support your wellbeing, and that’s dependent on your mindset and belief system (which is why two people can experience the same circumstances but react completely differently to them).

There may be times when professional help such as counselling is necessary to help with particularly difficult times such as bereavement, but for every day work and home related stress it’s extremely beneficial to establish a mindset based upon self-belief, self-confidence, resilience and adaptability, which can be achieved with life coaching.

This can help shift your perception and focus to enable you to manage your current circumstances more effectively, or choose to create a new future for yourself and formulate a plan to get you there.