Saturday, January 17, 2009
Though stress can be unpleasant, it is an important and useful part of life. It stimulates learning and personal growth, and is a natural part of any important accomplishment.
The stress response:” Fight or Flight”
Under stress, your body reacts just as your ancestors’ did when confronted by a physical threat: you mobilize to fight or flee. Your nervous system becomes highly activated and hormonal changes such as the release of adrenaline, prepare your body to respond to an emergency. Muscles tense for action, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and digestion and other maintenance functions are put on hold.
Unfortunately, fighting or running is rarely a useful response to modern difficulties. Much of our stress comes from an accelerated pace of living. In addition, today’s stresses are often ambiguous and ongoing. For example: money worries, environmental concerns, interpersonal conflicts, or job expectations. Without a sense of resolution, knowing the danger has passed, your body and mind receive no clear signal that it is safe to stop, relax, and recuperate.
The stress cycle
With little chance to rest and recover, you may find that your stress leads to a self-perpetuating cycle in which you become less and less able to unwind. Stress related muscle tension could develop into painful conditions such as chronic headaches or shoulder and back pain, which are themselves stressful. Worry and physical tension can interfere with sleep, leaving you exhausted with little energy or mental focus. As pressure mounts, the background level of stress hormones in your bloodstream can become elevated to the point that very little is needed to trigger the stress response. You may find yourself in a constant state of agitation, reacting not only to actual events, but also to anticipated events and memories.
Let's face it, our lives are filled with stress...careers, family, kids; there is little time to unwind. We need to make sure to set aside time every day to breathe, and clear our minds through meditation. Learning to say no is also helpful. Life is short, make sure to enjoy everyday.