What Does Stress Do to Our Body?

Rarely do we really consider the effects of stress. But what does it really do? This video sums it up well:

When do you get stressed? This does not only happen in the event of acute danger, but also in the event of a fight at home or because of your own views such as “I should not miss this appointment, because then ..”. They all activate ‘temporary’ stress as a useful response.

Stress is temporarily a useful reaction of the body.

In fact, stress helps the body. You have full attention on the problem in front of you. Everything is put aside so that you can handle a dangerous situation as well as possible.

However, when you continue in this survival mode for a long time, there are consequences. And that is when complaints begin. Currently, the following effects are known:

1. More Quickly in Panic

When you live in a dangerous world, it’s useful to recognize danger faster. The fear center (amygdala) enlarges, and its inhibition is reduced. So you are more likely to panic.

2. Decrease in Brain Functions

Connections in the brain are revised or dropped. This makes it more difficult to look at situations from a different angle. Also reduced are:

  • Concentration
  • Decisiveness
  • Critical thinking
  • Social skills
  • Learning new things
  • Remembering things
  • Thinking logically

That also paves the way for more serious problems, such as depression and Alzheimer’s.

3. DNA Adjustments

The metabolism is tuned for the “unsafe” world, through adjustments at the DNA level. These adaptations are also passed on to future generations, so that they are already prepared.

4. Get Sick Faster

The stress hormones tell your body that many functions are not important for a while. The stressful situation takes priority. This puts the brakes on:

  • The immune system
  • Digestion
  • Reproduction
  • Repair work on tissue and organs

Proteins are also removed from the muscles, oxygen uptake is increased and the heart beats faster, so that your body has maximum energy. The ratio between “good” and “bad” cholesterol is disrupted, glucose (and therefore insulin) levels rise. Very useful temporarily, harmful in the long run. A weakened immune system more easily makes you sick.

5. Increased Cell Damage

Temporarily, the immune system is whipped up by substances (Cytokines) that promote inflammatory responses. But when that doesn’t stop, it damages all kinds of body cells. This increases the risk of cancer and inflammation-related diseases, such as rheumatism and Crohn’s disease.


It may be clear: prolonged stress paves the way for psychological or physical complaints. Perhaps you already recognized some of the risks in the explanation above. Fortunately, that effect can be reversed.

An important solution is to really relax, and by that I don’t mean an evening of TV or Netflix. No matter how fun, that doesn’t help enough. Light exercise, relaxing music, meditation and mind-body interventions, such as Yoga or Reiki do.

Although we do not know enough about how this works, it is clear that true relaxation makes a substantial difference in physical and psychological complaints.

2 comments to What Does Stress Do to Our Body?

  • Thomaas

    Well done

    reply Jan. 31, 2020, 1:46 p.m.
    • Diederik [author]

      Thank you! :-)

      reply Feb. 1, 2021, 12:27 p.m.
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