As hunter/gatherer people our bodies developed warning signals that helped us recognize when to attack and when to retreat from situations. We have labeled this ‘stress’.
We respond physically and emotionally. This can have us perform at our peak…think of a boxer in the boxing ring. He/she knows when to retreat and when to attack.
This is good stress!
Unfortunately, when we are exposed to more stress than we can cope with on a mental, emotional or physical basis the ‘stress response’ goes into overdrive and it can be damaging to our health and well-being.
Today, I’m explaining exactly what stress is…why it’s good for you and what it does to you when it’s not so good for you. And how to tell the difference!
Generally, we consider stress to be the opposite of relaxation. And the human body is wonderfully adapted to deal with certain levels of stress.
Stress is a medical term for a wide range of strong external stimuli, both physiological and psychological (body and mind) which may cause a physiological response known as general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S.)
This was first introduced to us by Hans Selye in 1936. Selye described G.A.S. as having three separate stages, as follows:
- Alarm reaction. The body detects external stimulus. You may recognize this as ‘the fight or flight’ stage. Your body and mind react by going into a kind of ‘heightened awareness’ and you prepare to either engage in fighting or run away.
- Adaptation. The body engages defensive counter-measures against the stressor. You may recognize that after the effects of the alarm reaction your body and mind begin to ‘adapt’, that is you start to alter your thoughts, emotions and attitudes to the original stressor and begin to accept the situation.
- Exhaustion. The body begins to run out of defenses. After exhausting our mental, emotional and physical ability to resist and adapt to the stresses we experience we become exhausted.
What level is your stress?
Stress may include both “eustress” which is positive stress and “distress” which is negative stress. Life contains both but it is important to understand that what causes distress for one person may cause eustress for another.
When we talk of stress we are usually discussing distress. Stress is subjective and based on your personal life perception.
Do not let others tell you that your stress is not real.
Eustress may be classified as life’s challenges and is as essential to life as exercise is to a muscle. Too much distress in life can directly and indirectly contribute to general or specific disorders of body, mind and emotions.
In other words too much stress can make you ill.
Stress can have a major impact on the physical functioning of your body by raising the level of certain hormones in the body and thereby affecting bodily organs. For example, the levels of adrenaline and corticosterone are elevated during the alarm reaction phase of stress. These chemicals increase heart-rate and blood pressure as well as respiration and thereby put more stress on bodily organs. Long-term stress can therefore be a contributing factor in heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other illnesses.
In the Japanese culture death from overwork is called karoshi and is believed to be due to heart attack and stroke brought on by high levels of stress.
This strong link between emotions and physical health is supported by the following paragraph. James A. Duke in his book The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook writes about the heart disease research work of Dr. Dean Ornish M.D.:
“Dr. Ornish tells about a group of rabbits that added an unexpected tidbit to the research on heart disease. Kept in a laboratory under research conditions, the rabbits were genetically similar, and all received the same food and got the same amount of exercise, yet one group had 60 percent fewer heart attacks than the others. What was the difference? It turned out the healthier rabbits were the ones kept in the lower cages, and the short person who fed the rabbits could reach the lower animals and pet them when feeding them.”
As a Health Coach I play a role in helping people combat the effects of stress in their lives:
When a cuddle from a friend and a long weekend break from work isn’t bringing you back into balance you need to consider making some life changes to prevent ill health.
An initial consultation takes one and a half hours and involves looking at your health history and current lifestyle. One of the questions I ask is ‘how high is your stress level?’ with one being very low and 10 you are at your wit’s end. The number of times I hear the answer “12” would shock you! From there we look at what you are doing that is positive and we begin a personalized program to change the negative.
We may look at aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, Reiki, Reflexology and other bodywork techniques to help you relax and repair. I’ll make referrals. In addition, you will most certainly be given homework including breathwork, suggestions on how and which types of exercise will help, nutritional improvement; we’ll take a look at your sleep patterns and more.
So, what’s your stress level?
Want some help?
You can start by popping over to The School of Complementary Therapies website and check out the Articles on Health archives. I’ve shared tons of information over the years and you can help yourself for Free!
Or contact me and we’ll set up a free 15 minute consultation appointment to get you started on your own personal wellness Program and you’ll soon be Feeling Absolutely Fabulous!