What is Stress?
Category: News & Written by Simon On November-05-2019 10:15:29
What is Stress?
By Emma Lanza.
Stress is a biological natural reaction to an unnatural world.
All creatures have this survival instinct, including humans. You may have heard of the fight or flight instinct. When we anticipate a threat of danger our bodies are marvellous, making us more aware and ready to react to keep us safe. Our hearts beat faster to allow increased blood flow so we can move quicker, breathing speeds up to increase oxygen to the brain, our pupils dilate so we can focus better, adrenaline surges through our body so we feel energized and strong, all in all we are at our peak, ready to react and protect ourselves. Stress is an absolutely powerful physical reaction.
So why are so many people becoming ill, taking time from work, and struggling with stress, if it's such a natural part of being human?
Our society creates an unnatural stressful environment. Instead of the dangers being physical, the dangers we perceive are actually a social threat, here are some common examples:
The issue is we only have one type of stress response so our bodies will still respond in the same way to one of these threats as if we were getting physically attacked by a wild animal.
- Our social status
- What people think of us
- What type of job we have
This isn't usually helpful for the situation we're in. Increased heart rate and breathing while you're in an intense office meeting or an exam, can leave you feeling sweaty dizzy and unfocused. A surge of adrenaline when you received yet another bill you perhaps can't afford, can lead to a surge of anger or irritability. Your pupils dilating, and blood being sent to your extremities because you've got stage fright before public speaking can make you feel sick and dizzy.
We can't always remove these external triggers, but fortunately, we can do things to counteract the negative effects of stress. Exercising, even if it's just a gentle walk or some daily stretches, can release endorphins to make us feel more positive. Gentle focused breathing can help slow down that rapid heart rate. There are also many mindful exercises and activities out there that can help reduce the amount of worrying thoughts you have by encouraging you to focus on the present moment.
It's important to recognise when your stress response is in overdrive, it could just mean that you are under a lot of pressure and need to delegate responsibilities or take a break. However, it could be that you are beginning to or suffer from anxiety or panic disorder. If that fight or flight feeling is becoming a regular feeling and you're beginning to avoid problems, feeling overwhelmed or changing your usual behaviour, it may mean you need to talk to someone to share how you're feeling and to seek some support or help.