Whilst 21st Century living undoubtedly seems to generate stress via pressure, problems and expectations, it begs the question is stress really a killer? It’s officially, the most stressful time of year right now and the everyday anxieties and difficulties we face seem to increase ten fold at Christmas time. Admittedly, a lot of Christmas stress is perpetuated by ourselves and the perceived failings are by no means in the eye of the beholder !
What is Stress?
Interestingly, there is NO medical definition of stress and the medical board’s jury is out on whether stress is the cause of problems, or the result of them. The closest we can get is:
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension.
Whatever the label, stress can be debilitating and there can seem no way out of it, once the wheels start spinning.
Stress is most certainly a physical response and when the body is feeling the effects of stress it prepares itself for an attack. The fight or flight mode triggers a release of hormones including adrenaline. The quick release of adrenaline into the system can cause several adverse reactions varying from:-
- Rapid breathing
- Decrease in appetite
- Accelerated heart beat
- Increase in blood flow to muscles
Unlike cavemen we don’t have to flee from the giant digits of a Woolly Mammoth or wrestle a Sabre Toothed Tiger, which would no doubt exhaust any excess adrenaline. The adrenaline left in our systems unfortunately has nowhere to go and can manifest itself into aggression, poor decision making and other detrimental health issues.
Is There Such a thing as Good Stress?
Without wanting to debunk the myth, without stress I doubt very much whether man would have survived at all. Faced with danger, the release of cortisol, alongside adrenaline, fired energy into the body and mind giving it the momentum to evade the perils of the day.
Without a bit of stress we wouldn’t be motivated to get out of bed in the morning and cope with the numerous jobs we have in the fast and furious pace of today. As students, exam stress should be viewed as fuel to the revision fire and not lead into meltdown.
Where Does Good Stress End and Bad Stress Take Over?
Quite simply, if stress lingers inside the body it causes numerous problems, some with lifelong adverse effects. Short bursts of stress, like over Christmas, are inevitable and are often dissipated the moment the decorations are stowed away.
Feelings of stress can be chronic, and when left to build up can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and lead into severe depression.
Stress- A Major Topic
Stress is such an important issue, a film has been made about the disastrous effects of stress on the human body and mind.
Stress, Portrait of a Killer examines the facts of long term exposure to stress.
The film is a joint effort by National Geographic and Stanford University’s Dr. Sapolsky who document that :
“Stress is not a state of mind… it’s measurable and dangerous, and humans can’t seem to find their off-switch.” Constantly being in a stress response may have you marinating in corrosive hormones around the clock.
If after reading this blog post you feel it’s all doom and gloom, don’t despair! As inevitable as it is that life throws stress at us, there are ways of coping with it.
So as the great leaders of the free world say- if you can’t beat them, manage them (or something to that effect!).
Check out my blog and site for more tips and techniques in coping with stress and anxiety-davidhyner.com
Images by Davidqr, Open Clip Art vectors