The Truth about stress………….

The Truth about stress…

Our bodies seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with stress.  Some of us thrive on it and others are destroyed by it. Why is that, when our bodies all react in the same way to the physiological process of stress?

Perhaps its not the physiological processes we need to focus on, but consider what stress is, what triggers it and how we manage it if we are going to survive in this supposedly stressful world we now all live in.

So, what is stress?

The Oxford dictionary says..

Pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
‘the distribution of stress is uniform across the bar’

The degree of stress measured in units of force per unit area.

So the word was understood to mean pressure or tension of a physical object and too much stress or pressure and the object would break. So in relation to the human body you could relate this to an injury, over exertion in sport or physical work.

The dictionary also says……

A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
‘he’s obviously under a lot of stress’

Something that causes a state of strain or tension.
‘the stresses and strains of public life

So how is being in public life or long hours at work a physical stress or tension, we aren’t being literally pushed into these situations. The stress or tension is the fact that we are asking our bodies to work harder, either mentally or physically.

Stress from a physiological point of view on a human body is a very natural process and it is its survival mechanism to a threat. This would be called acute stress and is meant to be short lived. The demands on the bodies metabolic and physiological processes are heightened, but once the threat has gone they return to a balance. This would have been very important in a time when our threats were from tigers and bears. Nowadays however, we aren’t facing these threats anymore, our stresses are more to do with our perception that something bad could happen. If these stresses continue for a longtime then they become chronic and the demand on the body physically becomes real.

Cortisol is a powerful stress hormone that triggers many physiological responses at a cellular level to prime our body for a stress response. If the ‘stressor’ is mental not physical and becomes a long term issue, increased levels of cortisol then have a profound negative effect on practically all of our body’s systems both mental and physical causing the following:
Weight Gain and Central Obesity
Muscle Wasting (decreasing metabolism)
Lowered DHEA ( increases ageing)
Lowered Serotonin (causing depression)
Lowered progesterone (causing infertility)
Lowered resistance to infection (illness)
Reduction in antibodies that protect against allergies
Insulin Resistance (leading to diabetes)
Decreased Thyroid stimulating hormone (causing hypothyroidism)
Inhibition of conversion of inactive thyroid hormone into active form
Slower metabolism
Reduced progesterone and increase in oestrogen (causing mentrual/hormonal problems)
Breakdown of bone (osteoporosis)
The power of stress is under-estimated. NEVER feel guilty for taking time out.
So how do we manage stress in today’s society?

For those that thrive in these situations they have a different perception of the extra work or demands. They look at them with a positive view and do not see them as a threat to their status quo but may even view it as way to improve it. However, where the demands of life, whether long hours or deadlines are viewed as a threat to a persons status quo the physiological processes of stress could have a damaging effect. It’s therefore our psychology that is the stressor not necessary the work demands.

We therefore need to start with supporting the bodies physically in order that it can cope with these pressures and providing it with all the important nutrients (the raw materials our impressive, highly sophisticated human machines need to function, I’ll write another post detailing these). Take away anything that could add extra pressure such as smoking, alcohol and foods with low levels of nutrients. Once this is all in place, take a step back and reframe your perception of how your life is looking. Maybe, take a walk in the countryside with a loved one, friend or family member and chat about what is troubling you, but remember to take time to enjoy the view while you are there. Learn some mindfulness techniques to help bring your mind back to the present and stop it wandering off into the past or future.