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How does your body respond to stress?

Stress, especially when it's chronic, can invoke a range of physical symptoms ranging from a pounding heart to sleepless nights. As Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, explains today in a Huffington Post article, these responses are hardwired in us because our bodies were built to respond to sense physical dangers — the much discussed fight-or-flight response. He says, "We are not particularly splendid physical creatures... The only thing that has allowed us to explore the planet is the fact that we can respond effectively to threats."

To help you better understand the biological response to stress, Spiegel joined forces with Amit Sood, MD, associate director of complementary and integrative medicine at the Mayo Clinic, to create a handy infographic illustrating how the stress travels through the body. Scroll through the graphic to see how the fight-or-flight response initiates in a region of the brain called the amygdala and can affect a range of systems, including digestion, immunity and sleep.

Previously: Using an app to get a better handle on what stresses you out, How your reactions to everyday stressors may influence future health, Study suggests anticipation of stress may accelerate cellular aging, Workplace stress and how it influences health and How work stress affects wellness, health-care costs
Photo by Katy Warner

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