How to Minimize the Effects of Stress

Some types of stress are worse than others, and some people respond to stress differently. See where you fit on the stress response curve and what to do about it.

Video Transcript

When the body comes under major stress, it goes through three different stages:

1. Alarm  2. Resistance  3. Exhaustion

For much of human history, the stresses we dealt with were major physical threats like being chased by a tiger. We're designed to repeatedly handle that kind of stress and recover in between to restore the normal balance to the body and its hormone systems.

The first phase, Alarm involves the release of hormones like adrenaline, which increases the heart rate and blood pressure and allows you to run or fight. If the stress is short-term, the adrenaline levels return to normal, and the body resets into a neutral mode.

But if the stress persists, our adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys, put out a steady flow of cortisol. This represent phase two, Resistance and allows the body to break down tissues. It also uses them for fuel and sustains a response to ongoing stress, such as an extended illness.

High cortisol levels, on a sustained basis can lead to muscle breakdown and shrinkage of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for memory storage.

The final phase, Exhaustion can occur at different times for different people depending on their reserve and their body make up. When a person enters this phase, they become completely depleted and lose their ability to adapt to stress or changes, and cortisol hormone levels fall below normal.

Adequate sleep and rest, social support networks, time in nature, and a healthy diet can all help to minimize the effects of stress. If you're fighting stress or already depleted, you may need to change your lifestyle, schedule vacations or take naps to recover during the day.

If these are insufficient, a medical evaluation or supplements with adaptogens can also help.

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TriVita VitalityPlanner is an online guide that helps you take control of your everyday quality of health and wellness and mitigate potential health risks based on lifestyle, age and gender.

Dr. Robert Sheeler

About Dr. Robert Sheeler

Robert Sheeler, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Holistic Medicine and Urgent Care. He is certified in Functional Medicine by the Institute for Functional Medicine and as a Headache Specialist through the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialists.

His special interests include food and nutrition, Functional Medicine, headache care and Integrative Medicine. In addition, Dr. Sheeler is a certified teacher of Evidence Based T’ai Chi and Qi Gong and has studied numerous mind-body disciplines.