How does your body store stress?

Bodily stress.

You can be stressed without overloading the body

Our body is built to handle short-term everyday stressors. Day-to-day stress responses are coordinated by the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System). First, the ‘fight-flight’ mode (the SNS)  is activated to help us face the challenge. When the challenge is passed, the ‘rest and repair’ mode (the PNS) kicks in.

For example, before a job interview, our heart might race, or we might suddenly need to use the toilet. These are signs that the (SNS) is activated. This doesn’t need to be avoided.

In fact, everytime we move between the SNS and PNS flexibly (SNS<->PNS), we are training the body to automatically deal with future stressors.

Stress can build up in the body.

The effects of bodily stress can build up in the body when the SNS and PNS are not balanced over time. If we don’t enter physiological rest regularly this is like always being in emergency mode without breaks for repairs to be done and resources to be replenished. The body gradually becomes depleted and exhausted.

Our body reacts to stress in similar ways, whether it comes from our body, mind, or things happening around us.


Persistent bodily stress activates the immune and hormonal systems, which can use up a lot of energy. If the body’s resources are at risk of being used up too quickly, fatigue sets in as a way to conserve energy. We feel exhausted or ‘burnt out’. Factors like poor diet, poor sleep, or bouts of severe illness can contribute to resource depletion, accelerating the burnout process.

Functional somatic symptoms often first appear during a time of excessive or prolonged stress. For this reason, they are sometimes called stress related symptoms.

When the process of chronic stress reaches burn-out, typical symptoms include low energy, restless sleep, muscle discomfort, weakness, and ongoing low-level inflammation with frequent infections.



Therapist Tip Sticker

If you recognise the symptoms of burn-out, your main task is to nurture yourself and recuperate the body’s reserves. Eating nutritious food, morning sunlight, gentle movement and spending time every day relaxing are key resources. It might take some time, but you can feel better.