I probably don’t need to ask if you are feeling stressed. Stress and overwhelm are so common, that we accept them as part of our lives now. At some point during your day, you will feel stressed, you will have moments when you have to act quickly, and you will feel pressure when you have to attend to more than one thing. This is a way of living in the twenty-first century.
But at what point, living this way is too much? Stress can impact your life in many ways. It is not only the tiredness and lack of time you experience but also the brain fog or indecisiveness. Stress creates havoc in ways that may not be visible at the first glance like heart, digestive, and fertility problems. It disrupts our nervous system, weakens the immune system, and often stops us from following on our logical, healthy choices.
And that is why in today’s blog post I want to shine some light on stress and see if it is really our friend or a foe?
What is stress
The first thing we need to understand about stress is that stress is a biological response. It is a survival mechanism we got equipped with around 100,000 years ago. In a way, it is our defence system and a guarantee that our species will survive.
In times past, when we encountered a tiger, our body went into a fight or flight response, commonly known as a stress response. A number of chemical reactions happened inside our bodies, and we were ready to either face the danger and fight the tiger or avoid the hurt and flee the scene.
Either way, stress was vital to our survival. We could not live without it. And this is an important puzzle in understanding stress today. Because stress is a biological response, it is part of who we are and how we react to our surroundings, it cannot be eliminated. We cannot stop stress from ever occurring in our bodies, the same way we cannot eliminate it from our lives.
So, if we know that we can’t remove stress completely, is it good that we experience stress or not?
Have you ever watched a high performer? A gold medal finalist in any discipline? They all say that they acted the way they did because of the adrenaline.
And that is true. Adrenaline is one of the hormones produced when we experience stress. It helps with taking quick action, it boosts our energy levels, and it organises us to move through obstacles.
I am sure you had moments in life when you did heroic things (or slightly less heroic, but still important!) you didn’t even know you were capable of doing. Adrenaline pushes you to do things you feared.
We are talking about stressful situations, which are one-off situations, also called acute stress. Acute stress is essential because otherwise we will not be motivated to do anything we seem too hard to do.
To achieve a higher score, to reach for the unreachable, and to show up each time undefeated, we need acute stress. We can ack quickly, without analysing every possible outcome.
Stress response starts because we perceive something as a threat to our lives. For our ancestors, it was an encounter with an animal, another tribe that might have possibly been hostile or a war. But each time that sense of uncertainty lasted a brief period of time. You saw a tiger, it moved from your vision, and you were safe again.
Unfortunately, but nowadays we see threats everywhere. It is not just that one email, it is every email in our inbox, it is not only what one of our colleagues thinks about us, is worrying about what everyone we know thinks about us.
Something that used to be a one-off event, developed into a continuous event that brings us stress. Prolonged stress is called chronic stress, which we all suffer from today. And this type of stress poses danger to our health and wellbeing.
Remember our friend adrenaline from earlier? While adrenaline helps us to react quickly, if it stays in our system for too long it interrupts a lot of processes. It not only disturbs the production of other hormones, like for example melatonin (the sleep hormone) or progesterone (the sex hormone) but it shuts down a number of systems such as the digestive or immune system.
Our days are filled with situations that bring us constant stress. We get stuck in that stress response and sadly our body and mind cannot cope with it. You can easily notice how stress impacts your daily life. Did you have a stressful day at work? How is your energy level when you get home? Are you tired or ready to tackle the next task? How do you react to someone who cut you off in traffic? Are you annoyed and irritated or calmly letting them past? And what happens when you get home, and your kids ask you to play with them? I am sure you want to do that, but you notice the mess in the living room, and you go into rehearsing how everything is on your shoulders.
This is not you. This is chronic stress talking.
Stress is ever-present in our lives. But because stress is a biological response, it cannot be stopped or eliminated. That is why we need to learn how to manage stress better.
Stress can be your friend if it is acute stress. The exam or audition you have, the hard conversation, or participation in competition can all deliver stress. But once the moment passes, your body goes back to normal.
What most of us battle with today is chronic stress. A prolonged period of stress that our body and mind are not equipped to deal with.
Recognizing if the stress you experience is your friend, or a foe can make all the difference on your health and welling.
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Having problems with managing your stress? Go on: www.annadoktor.com.au to find out more about Anna Doktor Wellness Coaching and how I can help you to beat the overwhelm once and for all. Alternatively, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call to have a chat to see how we can work together tel: 0498016440.
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