How Does Your Body Handle Stress?

Not all stress is bad, according to Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., and author of Alter Your Life: Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?. It’s up to you to harness it.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate a whopping 90 percent of all illnesses and disease is stress-related, a little stress is good for you. According to researchers, without a little stress, the body tends to lose its ability to handle it.

Learn how your body handles stress with this quiz.

Which of the following physical symptoms can be a sign that you are overstressed?

a. lingering back pain

b. insomnia

c. upset stomach

d. all of the above

The answer is: d. The CDC provides a list of other stress-related symptoms, including tension and irritability, fear and anxiety about the future, difficulty making decisions, being numb to one’s feelings, loss of interest in normal activities, nightmares and recurring thoughts about a traumatic event, anger, headaches, stomach problems and trouble concentrating.

Long-term exposure to the stress hormone cortisol has been linked to shrinking in what part of the brain?

a. hippocampus

b. temporal lobe

c. frontal lobe

The answer is: a. Studies have connected a person’s long-term exposure to excess cortisol to shrinking of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.

What is the circulatory system’s response to stress?

a. Blood flow decreases by about 50 percent.

b. Blood flow increases slightly.

c. Blood flow increases by 300 to 400 percent.

The answer is: c. During the stress response, the spleen discharges red and white blood cells, allowing the blood to transport more oxygen throughout the body. Blood flow may increase 300 to 400 percent, priming the muscles, lungs and brain for added demands.

Short- and long-term stress each can have an effect on which of the following illnesses?

a. epilepsy

b. Alzheimer’s

c. migraine

The answer is: b. A healthy dose of short-term stress activates brain cells, which may prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Long-term stress, however, stimulates growth of the proteins that might cause Alzheimer’s and can lead to memory loss.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control,, HealthDay.

A little stress is good, too much stress is bad, and understanding it can be everything. Learn how to harness anxiety.


John H. Ostdick is a Dallas-based freelancer and frequent contributor to SUCCESS.

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