Physiological Stress Response

Self-advocating, disclosing your hearing loss, gathering financial resources as well as personal resources and networks can be a stressful part of being Deaf or Hard of Hearing or having a disability. As well, the responsibilities that come with the new and different experience as an adult in college or university education can also be stressful, so it’s important to understand the way that the body responds to stress in order to manage it.

  • The physiological stress response, which is also referred to as the fight or flight response, begins in the brain and sends a distress signal to the rest of the body via the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for involuntary body functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat and dilation and constriction of blood vessels and airways in the lungs. It is through these mechanisms that extra oxygen is sent to the brain, which increases alertness and energy levels (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2011).

To gain a better understanding of the stress response in a fun and entertaining way watch the following video:

Managing Stress- Brainsmart BBC

So what did we learn?

  • Some physical signs of the stress response include: muscle tension, headache, upset stomach, dry mouth, sweating, increased heart-rate, shallow or rapid breathing, and increased energy.
  • Some emotional or psychological signs include: exaggerated fear, distorted thinking, anxiety, poor concentration, depression, and anger.
  • Although the stress response has a purpose, over activation of this response (i.e. chronic stress) can be detrimental to an individual’s physical and mental health (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2011).