A lot of times people don’t fully understand the effects that stress can have on your body. When you stress about something, your body’s sympathetic nervous system kicks on and gets you ready to fight or flight. Our fight/flight reflexes are evolutionary responses that work to keep us alive by preparing us to deal with perceived danger. Corticosteroids and adrenaline are pumped into the system and give you a burst of energy so you can get away from whatever is stressing you out. The problem is, the body cannot tell the difference between the stress you feel from having to spend time with your in-laws, and the stress you would feel if there were a tiger lurking around wanting to eat you.
We live in a very complicated world , where stressors can come in numerous forms, but our fight/flight response evolved in a time when dangers in life primarily took the form of immediate, life threatening situations that would be escaped from or resolved through aggression. Very few stressors in our modern world can be solved in this way. This is where chronic stress can really become a problem. Our fight/flight responses are designed for quick bursts of energy, not long term activation.
It can help to think of your fight/flight response as being similar to a racecar driver revving up his/her engine, getting ready to go. The revving gives the car lots of force to start up and get going fast, but if the driver were to do it for long, he/she would damage the car. In a similar way, when we suffer from chronic stress, our bodies can become worn down and we become more prone to illness and injuries. This is why it is so important to engage in self care, and have some plans and techniques for stress management.