Know How Your Stress Is Killing You Slowly
Your to-do list is endless, deadlines are around the corner, and you find yourself screaming, “I’m stressed!” But what is stress? How is it affecting your daily life? Know all about stress and stress control
Photo Credit : Shutterstock,
According to Mayo Clinic, “Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, motivating you to perform well. But multiple challenges daily, such as sitting in traffic, meeting deadlines and paying bills, can push you beyond your ability to cope. Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. This "fight-or-flight" response fuels you to deal with the threat. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop complications of modern life mean that some people's alarm systems rarely shut off.”
When your body goes into a state of stress, you may feel agitated and aggressive towards others; this can be due to our bodies’ natural reaction being “fight”. This can be a helpful reaction to ward off predators, but in unnecessary situations, it can negatively affect relationships and ruin reputations
Some of us avoid our stressors, removing ourselves from the situation instead of tackling it. This can be a sign of the “flight” survival instinct; a function that can save our lives if we find ourselves in dangerous surroundings. However, in everyday life, this natural instinct can lead to a stressful situation escalating, and increase our stress levels when we realise that the stressor isn’t going away and we need to face it.
Unknown by many, there is a third mode that stress can cause; freeze. For some people, becoming stressed sets the stage for ‘dysregulation’. The energy mobilized by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system and we ‘freeze’. This response sometimes reveals itself when we breathe. Holding our breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on its oxygen intake.
Or a full blown panic attack.
Stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. Without this ability to feel stress, humankind wouldn’t have survived. Our cavemen ancestors, for example, used the onset of stress to alert them to a potential danger.
In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.
The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations.
When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.
How It Affects Us
Stress targets the weakest part of our physiology or character; so whatever ailment you are prone, it will flare up. If you have low levels of patience or tolerance for others, this will be the first area to fail under times of stress.
Prolonged stress undoubtedly makes people ill. It is now known to contribute to heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure, it affects the immune system, is linked to strokes, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), ulcers, diabetes, muscle and joint pain, miscarriage, allergies, alopecia and even premature tooth loss.
Of course, we all experience ‘bad days’, so we are really talking about situations where people display these negative changes for a period of time (e.g. 5 days in a row).
Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable. A key action in order to minimise risk is to identify stress-related problems as early as possible, so that action can be taken before serious stress-related illness occurs.
So, if you feel the pressure, do not hestitate to reach out to a mental healthcare specialist. There is no shame in seeking help!
Top themes and market attention on: