So lets’ quickly look at Stress – it is a normal and natural biological response to a challenging stimulation of a physical or emotional nature. Many things can be perceived as stress – walking down the road on your own to handing in report to the boss. What counts is how your brain perceives the situation and the level of threat it reaches. No matter who you are you can become very stressed and unwell.
We all know that it is our brain that is responsible for our physiology, movements, thoughts and emotions. When the brain perceives as a stressful stimulation, it triggers the biological reactions that put the person experiencing the stress on danger alert. This sets off the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). There is then a complex reaction sequence that is discussed on further pages.
The fight or flight response level of stress sends all resources in the body towards fighting and fleeing of your life and shuts or slows down other body functions:
- The immune system
- The blood flow to the skin
- The digestive system
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), needs to have time to bring the toxic cortisol levels down. When chronic stress develops, there is an overload of the short term response chemicals and the brain and body has to try and cope, this is known as the General Adaption Syndrome, GAS. We should make every effort to stop our stress before GAS occurs.
Most of us have our own concept what it feels like to be ‘stressed out’. Luckily this is usually only a temporary state and we are able find time and space to let go and relax so reduce the stress. Nature tells us that that this type is harmful to us. Humans are strange creatures in that we need a certain amount of ‘good’ stress in our lives. If we don’t get it we would find it to be cause of ‘bad’ stress!
So what are these reactions?
Millions of commuters may think that driving in the rush hour or travelling on an overcrowded train is stressful. No; these situations can be triggers that cause an internal body reaction – ‘the fight or flight response’ – an instinctive reaction to save us when in potentially life-threatening situations. (Remember humans are not designed to be driving cars in traffic jams or crushed up against strangers in a metal box. Massive changes occur in the brain and body due to hormones, (adrenaline being the most well known), changing physiological reactions.
A great step to a healthy attitude to stress is to realise that we can learn to engage our brain intentionally to manage the consequences of the fight and flight response. It is very simple to learn to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the rest and digest response in our body. All you need to do is master stress management techniques.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), needs to have time to bring the toxic cortisol levels down. When chronic stress develops, there is an overload of the short term response chemicals and the brain and body has to try and cope, this is known as the General Adaption Syndrome, GAS. We should make every effort to stop our reactions before GAS occurs.
But at the same time can create a stronger memory, sharpens the senses and makes us less sensitive to pain. The SNS is fast reacting in creating the fight and flight response but it is slow to shut down. It needs time to do so. This makes our current life styles which keeps our systems constantly on high alert with almost continuous levels of stress hormones in our blood stream takes us into a spiral of chronic stress.
- The blood drains from non-essential organs and is diverted into the skeletal muscles to aid us to fight or run for our life
- The pupils dilate to let more light in for better vision
- The breathing rate increases to supply more oxygen to the blood
- Which is pumped round by a now rapidly beating heart
- Which cause blood pressure to rise significantly
- The whole lot being fuelled by a massive release of glycogen and fats into the blood stream.
There you are just sit in the traffic or squashed in the train doing damage to yourself as you can’t fight or run. However; you are primed for physical action so you get ‘more stressed’ as you are getting frustrated. Does this sound familiar to you?
Few aspects of life are stress free and contrary to the popular concept that a stressed life style is a modern phenomena it has always been an innate part of human life.
When we are tired, frightened, tense, anxious, angry, depressed we are under ‘bad’ stress.
Good stress includes; the physical and mental exercise required for a normal healthy mind and body, sex, elation, competition, and many others.
Good Stress = Eustress
Bad Stress = Distress
But this definition is only aimed at ‘bad stress’ Good stress’ does not cause wear or tear – it can be very therapeutic.
Stress can be described as: ‘the wear and tear on our whole being due to our inability to cope with the continually changing environment’.