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Norepinephrine A neurotransmitter released by TERMS the sympathetic nervous system onto specific tissues to increase their function in the face of increased activity; when released by the brain, causes arousal (increased attention, awareness, and alertness); also called noradrenaline.
Endocrine system The system of glands, tissues, and cells that secretes hormones into the bloodstream to influence metabolism and other body processes.
Hormone A chemical messenger produced in the body and transported in the bloodstream to targeted cells or organs for specific regulation of their activities.
Cortisol A steroid hormone secreted by the cortex (outer layer) of the adrenal gland; also called hydrocortisone.
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Epinephrine A hormone secreted by the medulla (inner core) of the adrenal gland that affects the functioning of organs involved in responding to a stressor; also called adrenaline.
Endorphins Brain secretions that have pain-inhibiting effects.
Many people experience the set of almost-instantaneous physical changes that make up the stress response, such as increased heart rate and cold hands and feet, in reaction to positive stressors, such as a first date.
Taken together, these almost-instantaneous physical changes are called the fight-or-flight reaction. They give you the heightened reflexes and strength you need to dodge the car or deal with other stressors. Although these physical changes may vary in intensity, the same basic set of physical reactions occurs in response to any type of stressor positive or negative, physical or psychological.
The Return to Homeostasis Once a stressful situation ends, the parasympathetic division of your autonomic nervous system takes command and halts the stress response. It restores homeostasis, a state in which your body maintains blood pressure, heart rate, hormone levels, and other vital functions within a narrow range of normal. Your parasympathetic nervous system calms your body down, slowing a rapid heartbeat, drying sweaty palms, and returning breathing to normal. Gradually, your body resumes its normal “housekeeping” functions, such as digestion and temperature regulation. Damage that may have been sustained during the fight-or-flight reaction is repaired. The day after you narrowly dodge the car, you wake up feeling fine. In this way, your body can grow, repair itself, and build energy reserves. When the next crisis comes, you’ll be ready to respond again.
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