The Oxford Dictionary definition of stress is: A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
These circumstances could vary from having too much to do, the death of a loved one, a sudden change, going into the unknown, an argument, financial worries or work. Just as we all have different pain thresholds, we all have different stress thresholds. One person may find interviews a breeze whereas another may develop a rash at just the thought of going to one.
Our body is on constant standby for certain ‘stress’ signals to activate our Flight or Fight Response. Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt or low self-esteem can all activate the primitive part of our brain if our survival is deemed under threat. For most of us, being hunted by predators is no longer a regular occurrence. However feeling anxious about an exam, worrying about money or working long hours can still cause the Flight or Fight response to be triggered. This causes us to experience strong, physical symptoms as our brain activates a rapid response to what we’re feeling or experiencing.
The Fight or Flight Response is based on what we see, what we hear and our stored memories of similar situations. If the situation is judged as ‘threatening,’ our nervous system responds by activating the hypothalamus in the brain, which in turn activates the pituitary gland. This gland secretes a hormone activating the adrenals and enables us to maintain a steady level of blood sugar. Glucose is also released for additional energy and adrenalin is secreted increasing the sympathetic nervous system (causing sweating, increased pulse and blood pressure) and decreasing the parasympathetic system (affecting our digestion). The Fight or Flight Response has evolved from experiencing a fear for our lives to far more complex and less life-threatening issues. However, the responses our brain activates can cause us more harm than good now that our lives are no longer consistently on the line.
We all deal with stress differently. If you’ve been under stress for a short period of time you may notice some physical symptoms including: headaches, difficulty sleeping, difficultly concentrating, loss of appetite, irritability or fatigue. Over a longer period stress can cause: high blood pressure, depression, heart problems, digestive issues, skin problems, weight loss & gain and can affect fertility.
Whatever the stress or whatever your threshold, the important thing is that you don’t make yourself ill. Although you may be fit with a healthy diet and lifestyle, if you’re stressed problems can still arise. Therefore identify what is causing you stress and address it head on. Taking control is empowering. Talk to other people and don’t bottle it all up inside. Make sure you have time for yourself and relax. A balanced lifestyle of eating healthily, exercising regularly and thinking positively are all ways to improve your general wellbeing and they are great ways to help decrease your stress levels.
Reflexology is a wonderfully relaxing treatment that helps release tension, improve sleep, improve mood and can be a great tonic for stress. If you’re well rested and relaxed your body’s own innate healing is encouraged from within and your general wellbeing will be improved.
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