PSYC 460- Extra Credit
April 3, 2013
The effects of daily stress over a period of one year has precise effects on one’s physiological responses, especially regarding one’s nervous, endocrine, and immune system. The nervous system acts as a “flight or fight” response in the presence of stress. The body will either subconsciously flee from the stressful situation or stay and put up a front and try to manage the stress. These responses are quick and are known as emergency responses. The endocrine system consists of the HPA axis that is more conditioned for long-term stressors. The physiological response process begins when the hypothalamus triggers a factor that inhibits the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH. The adrenal cortex is then aroused by ACTH to secrete cortisol, which increases blood sugar levels and metabolism. When metabolic activity is increased in the hippocampus, neurons become more sensitive to toxins or over-stimulation. This is a slow process, but in the end it helps the body defend itself in the presence of stress. Once the nervous system is triggered by stress, it motivates the immune system to step in. This system was evolved to protect the body from stress, illness, etc. The immune system increases the production of natural killer cells, leukocytes and cytokines. Prolonged exposure to stress takes a toll on one’s immune system because the increased cortisol detracts from the synthesis of proteins found in the immune system.
Specific coping mechanisms to control prolonged stress responses would be to regularly practice breathing routines, exercise, meditation, distraction, or simply facing the stressor head on. More importantly, social support or support from close friends and family or spouse has been shown to be the best coping responses to prolonged stress.