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The Effects of Short Term and Long Term Stress on Physiological Processes

The Effects of Short Term and Long Term Stress on Physiological processes Stress can have many definitions, the NHS describes it as: stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure (2012) and some may describe it as when our demands outweigh our response.A stressor is anything that is likely to ‘set off’ your stress levels, when a person is feeling overwhelmed or they cannot cope with an event or situation (whether it be physical or psychological).During the 1920’s Walter Cannon began to recognise chain of rapidly occurring reactions in one’s body in response to acute stress.

He described this reaction as the fight or flight response which will prepare the body to either fight or flee from a threatening situation (real or imaginary).

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Cannon discovered that during this response a series of physiological reactions will take place such as heart and respiratory rate will increase to allow for more oxygen to be pumped around the body to prepare the muscles for action. Blood pressure will increase as the blood vessels will constrict to enable to blood to move faster and more smoothly around the body.

Pupils will dilate as they allow more light into the eye therefore allowing a boarder view of the situation. Our sympathetic nervous response to stress is our immediate response, this is an uncontrollable reflex to a stressful situation. Our hypothalamus send signals through our nerve cells to our pituitary gland to our adrenal glands, specifically our adrenal medulla. Here, the hormone adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream causing the many physiological changes in our body. Also, noradrenaline will be release causing the non-essential systems to either shut down or slow down e.

g. digestive system and immune system. As the adrenaline is coursing through our body it triggers the release of sugar from our temporary stores supplying energy around the body. Originally founded by Seyle in 1956, general adaptation syndrome refers to the three stage reaction to stress and our adaptation to dealing and living with it. Stage one is the sympathetic nervous response: an immediate alarm reaction to a stress and our fight/slight response. Stage two is the stage of resistance (adaptation) where a prolong exposure to stress has occurred

causing our body to become adjusted to the stressor and the increased amount of hormones in our body (adrenaline/adrenocorticotropic). As a way of conserving energy and for optimum nutrient absorption a person may feel reduced desire for physical activity. The final stage is the exhaustion stage, as there has been an increased amount of corticosteroids in the body, the immune system will have become much weaker making a person much more susceptible to chronic illness/heart attacks/severe infection as our bodies are much less capable of an immune response.

If a person has GAS then there body will be in the process of the parasympathetic nervous response, it differs to the sympathetic response as hypothalamus signals to the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone will trigger corticosteroids into the blood from the adrenal cortex which suppresses the immune system and converts glycogen in muscles and the liver into sugar. In 1997, Marmot conducted a study into low job control and the risk of coronary heart disease. It was determined that low job control did increase the risk of heart disease.

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