What is stress?
We will all experience stress in varying degrees or forms throughout the course of our lives, but what is stress?
Stress happens when we feel overwhelmed and that we can’t cope with pressure, this pressure can come in many shapes and forms and triggers physiological responses.
Your heart beats faster, you begin to sweat and your breathing becomes fast and shallow - these are all signs of a stress response, also known as ‘fight or flight’ where your body goes into survival mode demonstrating a ‘hard-wired’ reaction to perceived threats.
In the days when we were ‘cavemen’ and the threat of being eaten by a wild bear were not only real, but a daily occurrence, this instinct and response saved our lives! But in today’s modern society we are largely safe from these life threats yet still the ‘fight or flight’ response remains inherent and is instead triggered by many day-to-day situations such as; work pressures, divorce, separation, demands of children, traffic jams etc.
Many people become over-stressed because they are either unaware of or unable to manage their stress triggers. In ‘caveman’ days we would naturally be ‘burning off’ the effects of our response by physically fighting or running for our lives, but nowadays this does not happen and because so many people don’t take enough exercise the effects are not being released and instead we end up with a huge stress build up!
Unmanaged stress is accumulative and can have a very negative impact on your health so that the individual can find him/herself in an almost constant state of a ‘fight or flight’ response, perceiving threats everywhere and then very likely becoming irrational, oversensitive or aggressive, and thus unable to function properly.
So how can we manage and reduce our stress?
Become aware of and notice your own stress signals, then look at the ‘thought’ or ‘belief’you are having about what is going on. This is often the trigger that has set off your ‘stress response.’ At this point you can choose to have a different perspective and thought about the situation.
Change your breathing to release your stress and relax you. Try the 7/11 breathing exercise which is simply to breathe in deeply for 7 counts and then breathe out slowly for 11 counts. Do this 3 or 4 times and notice the difference.
Short bursts of energy and physical exercise for just 20 minutes are excellent to release your body’s stress (walking, swimming, cross-training). If you are suffering from stress, see where you can bring regular exercise into your life.
Finally, remember that ‘stress’ is internal and primarily down to whether you think situations around you are worthy of anxiety. By simply understanding what is going on you can empower yourself to manage these responses!
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." ~ William James
With positivity and love,