You Can “Catch” Stress Through a TV Screen

Your heart rate speeds up, your breathing quickens. Your muscles tighten. Your stomach ties itself in knots. All of these changes are symptoms of the condition called stress.

When animals, including humans, are under acute stress, their bodies respond with a powerful neurochemical chain reaction. Glucose, the fuel for our cells, is released into the blood from storage sites in our body, notably the liver. The elevated heart rate increases circulation of the energy-enriched blood to the muscles. Any long-term body processes not immediately necessary, such as digestion, growth, and reproduction, are slowed down. Immune defenses are enhanced, ready to respond to bodily injury, and our senses are sharpened.

The major purpose of this response, says psychiatrist and stress researcher Kristen Aschbacher, “is to help redirect energy away from less critical functions in order to

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