Stress affects almost every system of the body, most, if not all of us, already know this. However, do you know how and why? I didn’t until very recently and it was one of those duh moments for me. Part of the reason for this blog is to share what I learn along my journey, so let’s jump into this!
The human body is designed to handle ACUTE stress and fear. Imagine you’re out picking berries and you come upon a bear. The moment your brain received the signal from the eyes and is aware of the bear, it kicks the body into gear. the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to a sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in a sudden and massive increase in heart rate so blood gets pumped where it’s needed faster which causes an increase in blood pressure. The organs and muscles get extra blood in a hurry so that you can escape. Your breathing rate also increases to supply extra oxygen to the blood for your muscles, to make you run faster, be stronger and hit harder. This is what we know as the flight or fight response. Once the threat has passed, it takes the body approximately 20 minutes to an hour to return to it’s individual normal function.
This natural response is great in acute situations, but what do you think happens when the threat never passes? What if your threat is your boss at work with his impossible deadlines and constantly threatening to fire you? What if your stressor is your family at home, the spouse and kids with all their constant demands of take me here, honey do this, dad I need money. Constant, daily exposure to stressors keeps our bodies in that flight or fight mode.
All those excess hormones, increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate…can you imagine the toll that takes on our bodies? Is it any wonder most of us feel run down and generally like crap all the time?
So, now you know what is happening and why, so what do you do? Well, logic would dictate that you just remove the stressors. Sadly, logic doesn’t live in reality anymore. You can’t just quit your job or divorce your spouse and leave your children behind. Well, I suppose you could but there’s a better way!
No one can remove all stressors from their life, it’s just not practical. So, we remove the ones we can and with each one we remove, our bodies get a little bit of a breather and after a while, those breathers turn into hours then days of feeling better and no longer on constant high alert.
For example, if the loud, crowded lunchroom/break room stresses you out, start packing your lunch and go outside to eat! That’s a 30-60 minute breather a day. Does your morning and afternoon commute stress you out? Take the bus and enjoy being driven. Take that time to do some breathing exercises and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Do crowds, like you find in stores and at the mall, stress you out? Order online and skip the crowds!
See where I’m going with this? A bunch of little things add up to give your body time to recover between the big stressors you can’t remove, such as your job or family. So, take some time, look at your life, identify your stressors then identify the ones you can realistically remove and remove them!
P.S there are herbs to help us return our bodies to normal function which will be my next post, so stay tuned!