Nowadays it doesn’t take much for us to feel stressed and various factors, real or imagined can contribute to the occurrence of stress symptoms. It usually appears in connection with perceived danger, (real or imagined) or physical attack, but also environmental factors such as family life, work-life balance, job, lack of free time, relationships, money, health problems and also our lifestyle such as eating habits, exercise and worrying play a big role for us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
But what really is stress and where does it come from?
Stress can be described as a non-specific response from the body to any demand made. It’s been there ever since the beginning of human evolution, to protect us from possible danger and attacks, the so called fight or flight mode.
The flight or fight syndrome is our body preparing to fight or run away. This natural instinct, which can also be found in animals, reduces several symptoms within the body as the body prepares to conserve energy and enables movement for an escape. Adrenaline level (the stress hormone) and blood pressure increase as the hormones rush through our body to warn us from danger. Our muscles contract and the digestive functions shut down until the dangerous situation has passed or been escaped from. Only then the stress symptoms subside and the body relaxes again.
Through evolution and various changes in our environment, the fight or flight response is constantly switched on and stress becomes normal to us. As we are always looking for threats (read more about fear and where it comes from here), the body has little to no time to relax and therefore has the need to go into protection mode and leaves us feeling stressed out.
Rather than finding the root of the problem and dealing with stress, we tend to ignore it or suppress the feeling in unhealthy ways, which leads to even more damage.
Let’s take a closer look at how stress is created:
There are 4 stages in the stress cycle:
- Thoughts: Stress begins with the way we think about certain events in our life which are mostly of negative nature, hence the first symptoms of stress occur.
- Emotions: Negative thoughts produce negative emotions, which are the body’s reaction to our thoughts.
- Chemical Reactions: Negative thoughts send nerve impulses to the adrenal glands which release a number of different chemicals into the bloodstream. They then circulate through the body, affecting the pituitary gland and release even more chemicals, generally known as the stress chemicals (adrenaline, other hormones and neurotransmitters)
- Physical Symptoms of Stress: The physical effects of stress are more noticeable when the emotion is intense as the stress chemicals activate every organ in our body, leaving us with high blood pressure, migraines, sleep disturbances, pain and even depression.
There are usually 3 different levels of stress – short term, medium term and long term which all have a negative impact on our wellbeing and when not treated correctly, can severely affect our health in the long term. Stress is not to be underestimated – no matter how small or big it may seem.
Fortunately, there are a coping techniques to help manage stress release which we’ll look at now
- Exercise reduces the amount of adrenaline (the stress hormone) in the blood stream and increases the production of serotonin which leaves us feeling happier. As little as 20-30 mins, 3 times a week can do real wonders and increase your overall wellbeing.
- Sleep is a very important factor and when we are lacking sleep, this will effect our level of stress. We can improve sleep by reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, exercise regular, use relaxation techniques and treat the bedroom as a relaxing place, having wind-down rituals such as a good bath, incense or a hot beverage before bed time.
- Diet: Spreading calorie intake over the day will help to maintain a good blood sugar level throughout the day and enables us to work at our peak. Taking a break for lunch is very important to reduce stress and drinking enough water throughout the day (6-8 glasses) will also help boost energy.
It is very important to listen to your body and watch the signs it’s giving you.
I’ll go into more detail about stress releasing techniques in a different post, so watch this space if you’re interested in knowing more. If you want to discuss any topic in person or would like to find out for yourself, how we can work together, then please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.lifecoachkat.com and book a free consultation to see what we can do for you.