Living in stress is living in survival mode. They are one and the same. Stress is when our body moves out of the normal homeostatic balance. When we react to something the body produces numerous chemical changes that alter the normal physiological/chemical order.
A stressor is something that disrupts the normal chemical balance of the body. And the stress response is what the body does to re-establish normal homeostatic balance.
The human being is basically an animal, and like all animals the stress response is built into the body. It is there to save us from danger. For example, the deer, notices a predator ready to attack. The deer’s body goes into stress mode. The Sympathetic Nervous System is switched on. Heart rate and blood pressure is increased, blood goes to the limbs in order to run, eyesight and hearing become enhanced. The deer flees running as fast as it can, out manoeuvring its predator as it goes.
Once the deer has escaped, and the threat is no longer there, the body then calms, the Parasympathetic Nervous System takes over, the blood which was in the limbs now returns to the organs. The stress response is a good thing in short spurts and animals use it well. Humans on the other hand, do not use this system well. In far too many cases the Sympathetic Nervous System is switched on and left on.
In short, it is important to understand that how we react to our environment or how we think in response to some past, present or future moment that may be stressful, is responsible for most of the ailments both physical and emotional from which we suffer.
When we repeatedly and chronically place ourselves in high stress mode, or when we are hyper-vigilant in looking for stressors that may affect us at some future point (anxiety), we engage the body’s emergency response to stress all the time. Being continually on high alert or in emergency mode, does not give the body time or the resources necessary to repair and regenerate itself.
Recent estimates indicate that as many as 90% of all the people seeking medical care are doing so because of stress related disorders. More and more researchers are establishing links between physical illnesses and extreme emotional conditions and reactions.
Uncontrolled reactions to the stressors in our lives leads to other emotional problems like anger, anxiety, depression, harming of the self or others and the deterioration of our relationships.
Another way to look at stress is that it is the result of perceiving that we are no longer in control of the elements in our environment because we can’t predict the desired outcome.
Among the other primary functions that can be affected by stress, one of the most crucial is our immune system. Once that system is compromised or shuts down completely, we’re unable to fight invaders like bacteria and viruses, so we can be ravaged by infections and dogged by illness. In particular, we can suffer from immune-mediated diseases like allergies, infectious influenza, even Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Our immune system cannot detect early tumour cells and discard them, when we are fighting an emergency elsewhere requiring all our energy. Cancer cells can reproduce rapidly when the immune system is shut down in response to constant stress. Quite simply, the more we negatively react to the stressors in our lives, the more frequently we get sick, and the effects of a compromised immune system show up in many forms.
Recent evidence suggests that cortisol, one of the chemicals produced during the stress response, is responsible for degenerating brain cells in the hippocampus. This organ is responsible for helping us form new memories and acquire new knowledge. If we damage the neurological machinery that craves new things, we end up craving routine instead of novelty. We cannot learn, make new memories, and explore new adventures, because the organ that makes new memories is breaking down. This breakdown of neurons in the hippocampus reverts us to doing only what is familiar and avoiding what is unknown. This condition triggers mental illness such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Stress increases our blood sugar levels by alerting the output of the pancreas, the liver and other storage mechanisms. When the body is subjected to chronic stress, the blood sugar levels are repeatedly increased and the insulin levels lowered. Adult onset of diabetes as well as obesity can come from this stressful conditioning.
Through calming the mind in meditation, acceptance, increasing the distance between stimulus and response, and developing new positive ways to respond, we can lower our stress levels and improve our health.
It is not the stressful environment which triggers the stress response in our bodies but the way our minds process the stressor.
Look for the various symptoms of Stress
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgmeny
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioural symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviours, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Adrian Spear – Mind Management & Counselling has a proven path to help you manage your negative responses to the stressors in your life. Contact me to find out how to reduce stress in your life, improving health, productivity and enjoyment as you go. I have individual sessions and 4 lesson stress management and wellness courses on offer. Find out more here: https://www.apspear.com/stress-management