This is the first of 3 Blog Posts about Stress, Anxiety etc., how it affects us and how we handle it. As well as the upside of Stress.
In today’s world we are under stress practically 24/7 aren’t we? Stress, a complicated condition and a modern day disease, is so misunderstood and comes in many shapes and sizes . So I thought I’d make it simple to understand and talk about the causes and symptoms related to Stress
in “lay-man” language
The Dictionary of Nursing Oxford Reference 1992 says that:
“Any factor that threatens the health of the body or has an adverse effect on its functioning, such as injury, disease or worry. Constant stress brings about changes in the balance of hormones in the body”
First of all know that Stress is a totally normal re-action. We need stress and it is perfectly healthy in limited amounts, however it only becomes a serious risk when it occurs too often. The results of which may result in emotional and physical burnout.
However no two people will re-act to stress in the same way. What may be a positive stressor for one person could be a negative stressor for another – or to quote an old adage “What’s one mans meat is another man’s poison”.
Not only that but each individual’s reaction to stress can vary, depending on the state of health, circumstances etc at the time of the stress occurring.
We humans respond to stress in one of 4 ways – fight, flight, freeze or fawn. In primitive times there was really only a few things that “stressed us out”, for example finding food, shade, a safe place to and life and sleep fighting enemies e.g. the saber-toothed tiger.
The decision was a simple one stay and fight the tiger, run for our lives, freeze, or pretend toc be dead. However, the stress was over in a short period of time, and our body could return to normal.
Today, however this is not so true; we have far more stressors to contend with, for example noise, money, relationship problems, financial worries, a frightening experience, bad news the list goes on and on. Our general health depends mostly on how we are able to fight stress and disease and depending on our body type, personality and lifestyle stress can trigger a range of health problems.
“Although the exact role of stress in human diseases it is not known it is clear that stress can lead to certain diseases”. (Tartora & Grabowski)
Stress, related disorders can include such illnesses as gastric ulcerated colitis, IBS, peptic ulcers, hypertension, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, anxiety and depression. It has also been shown that people under stress are at greater risk of developing chronic disease or dying prematurely.
To give you an idea of what’s happening I’ll describe stress very simply.
The nervous system is divided into 2 - the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system – (think of it as a see-saw with the sympathetic system being the up and the parasympathetic being the down).
The sympathetic system is when all the adrenalin, cortisol, noradrenalin and other chemicals and hormones are whizzing around our body. That's when we are stressed - and flight/flight/freeze/fawn mode kicks in..
Naturally we need stress to keep us going – it motivates us, but when we get an overload of it, that's when things start to go wrong, and we get various symptoms that stress brings.
The para-sympathetic is when everything is running at an even keel. But if it was always the predominant one nothing would get done and we'd all be walking around as if drugged. Stress is good for us but we do need to keep an even balance, and recognise when it is engulfing us, so we can control it.
Most people believe that to reduce stress takes a while. Not True.
In today’s hustle and bustle we are so time poor and not many of us have the luxury to spend 30 plus minutes to destress. There are many exercises that I use with my clients to regulate their nervous system which take a few minutes only.
Here is a simple one you could try
1. Lie down with your feet elevated above your head, maybe raised on cushions.
2 Turn off the phone.
3. Get rid of pets, partners and any nuisances that may be around.
Remember…….THIS IS YOUR TIME
If you're the sort of person who gets “ants in the pants” and can't relax after 5 minutes - then do it for 5 minutes. If you can do it for longer then great.
If you want to play some soft soothing music that’s fine go ahead just don't fall asleep.
Everyone has a “favourite place” they can go to, real or imaginery, so take yourself off on a mental holiday. You'll be amazed how much better you feel.
Basically what is happening is that you are allowing the sympathetic to calm down and the para to take over. If you can do this on a daily basis that is tremendous.
But remember if you can't don't force it - 'cos that will only make you more stressed and that that's defeating the object.
The reason your feet are raised is that it gets the circulation going which will bring more oxygen to all parts and organs as well as the lymphatic system will get going which helps to get rid of toxins easing those aches and pains.
Slow down and breathe slowly and from you stomach
Next time we’ll have a look at the various different causes of Stress, which in some form or other we have all experienced and can relate to and most definitely recognise.