The Simple Physiology of Stress, and How to Better Deal With It

“Why am I exhausted?”

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From the Brain to the Adrenals:

In an increasingly stressful and anxiety-prone society, it is very important to understand the impact of stress on the body and brain, to be able to manage it.

The HPA axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenals):

The stress response system includes the sympathetic nervous system, various neurotransmitters, the immune system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA)
To deal with a stressful situation, certain areas of the brain (hypothalamus and pituitary glands) and the adrenal glands are triggered. This is called the HPA axis.
Under stress (verbal altercations, public speaking, competitions, facing threats…) the brain through a cascade of neuro hormonal reactions sends immediate signals to the adrenal glands.

In short your hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which sends a message to the pituitary. This stimulates the pituitary’s ACTH production, which then prompts your adrenals to make cortisol.

One of the function of cortisol is to raise the sugar in your bloodstream and prepare your body for the high-energy ‘fight-or-flight’ response that it is expecting and anticipating.

Your adrenals also release adrenaline and norepinephrine, which raises your heart rate and increases your blood pressure. Muscles tense and breathing accelerates.

The HPA axis maintains the ability of the body to respond to acute and prolonged stressors.

Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Stress:

Under chronic stress the HPA axis is slowly but constantly engaged which is why it leads to the unfortunately famous “Adrenal Fatigue”.

When the adrenal glands are overstimulated for a long period of time, they begin to weaken which result in symptoms like a weakened immune system, low energy levels, chronic fatigue, inability to handle any kind of stress, lost of the ability to balance the levels of minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium in the blood leading to cravings for foods which will replace the sodium that we have lost…

Adrenal Fatigue is more complicated than simply ‘tired Adrenal glands’. It is a group of diverse symptoms that present due to the under-functioning and depletion of key neurotransmitters and hormones produced by the adrenal glands, HPA axis, but also the thyroid gland, and often the reproductive glands.

David Tan, Osteopath DO-Physiotherapist Bsc, LifeForce Founder

After 20 years in health care, perfecting the Art of Healing and exploring stress management, life optimization and self-improvement tools, David has founded Life Forces. A company specialized in burn out prevention, chronic stress release and optimal body and mind living. Our mission is to bring people back in touch with their optimal mind and body health. We have developed innovative and unique training programs for participants to integrate life changing tools to self manage their stress and regenerate themselves, find back their inner power and bring home these tools to enjoy a continuous regenerative routine. We teach and share how to sustain a strong and healthy life foundation so that people can pursue their life dreams and life projects.

Originally published at

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