How stress affects the body

I am delighted to introduce the bestselling author Jo Howarth. Jo is writing about stress and how it affects our well being and what we can do to help ourselves.

How does Stress affect us physically, emotionally and behaviourally?

Stress gets a bad press.

None of us like it very much, do we?

We’d quite like it to go away and leave us alone.

But actually stress is a very simple thing. Stress basically happens when there is an imbalance between the resources & abilities you have at your fingertips and the demands that are placed upon you. And stress produces a physiological response, our body goes in to a certain set of reactions in order to help us cope with the threatened or pressured situation we are facing.

Fight or Flight

That response is called ‘the flight or fight’ response and it comes from when we were cavemen. Imagine coming out of your cave one morning and finding a sabre tooth tiger sitting right in front of you. In that moment you have two choices, and two choices alone. You can fight that tiger until one of you is defeated or you can run like billy-o in the opposite direction until you’ve escaped it.

And certain things happen in your body, to allow one of those two things to happen. For instance, our blood supply gets pumped primarily to our arms and legs because they are the things we need to use to do one of those two things. Certain systems in our body start to shut down. For example, our immune system – because you don’t need to fight off that virus right now, you need to fight a sabre tooth tiger – and our digestive system, because you don’t need to digest that apple right now, the priority is to run very fast somewhere else. Hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol get released into our system, to pump us up, in order to allow us to do one of those two things.

Once we have either fought the tiger and defeated it or managed to get away from, and that threat is gone then our bodies return to normal. Hoorah.

In this day and age though, the threats and pressures we face tend to last a little longer than that encounter with the sabre tooth tiger. Which means that those hormones keep flowing through our system, it means that those bodily systems stay shut down and it means our blood supply remains primarily directed to our arms and legs. All of which, obviously, has a massive impact on our physical being, especially if the stress we are experiencing is long term.

But stress doesn’t just affect us physically. There are also emotional and behavioural symptoms of stress. Stress affects our mental wellbeing, producing an inability to concentrate properly and an inability to make even the simplest of decisions. Stress can put us on edge, making us worried and anxious, affecting our sleep and ability to relax properly.

It’s no wonder that stress gets a bad press.

What can you do to help yourself?

But once you understand what is actually happening to you when you experience stress then it becomes easy to see the solutions. Making time every day to do a little bit of exercise, burning off those stress hormones, has a massive impact. Taking time purposely every day just to relax is also a brilliant way to combat it, using tools such as breathing exercises, mediation and massage helps enormously.

At the end of the day it all boils down to looking after yourself, physically and mentally. Making self-care an absolute priority will help you kick stress into touch.

Take care 🙂


About Jo

Jo Howarth is a bestselling author, inspirational speaker and founder of The Happiness Club. Her job is to teach people how to choose happiness every day and she loves it. The members of her online monthly membership club receive a message every day containing a strategy or technique to use that day in order to help them become more mindful, calm, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. The club helps members to face and release negative emotions and limiting beliefs whilst switching their focus to the positive side of life. 

You can find out more about Jo’s club by visiting

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