For a great many people today stress seems to be literally taking over their lives. We talk about being stressed, needing to de-stress or to simple go somewhere away from stress.
This is really not an accurate picture of stress. Stress is not external; it is internal. It is created entirely by our own thoughts and is your body’s response to what is seen to be something harmful. This could be something very real, like a horrible boss that is always yelling, or it could be something perceived but not real, like a fear of failing even though you are very good at what you do.
Stressors, those things that trigger our stress, are external. They may be based on our financial situation, changes occurring in life, employment problems, relationship problems or even threats to our place in the world around us.
Our Body’s Response
When the external triggers are present and if we internalise their presence as a threat, our being responds in both a physiological as well as psychological way. The physiological response is for our heart rate to increase along with our respiration and for your muscles to tense and your body to get ready to flee or fight.
At the same time all the unnecessary body systems are told to shut off by the chemicals, specifically adrenalin and cortisol, which are triggering the fight or flee response. This means that our immune system shuts down as does our digestive system and also the part of our brain that is responsible for problem solving and creative thinking.
In a normal situation when you see the stressor is not a threat or is gone this process reverses very quickly. Your brain tells your parasympathetic system to turn off the fight or flee response, allowing everything to return to normal. At the same time it also tells those other systems to start back up to protect your body and bring the system back into balance.
The Effects of Constant Stress
Being in a constant state of fight or flee is exhausting both physically and mentally. Your body becomes drained, your hormones are not in balance and you are not thinking or acting in a way that is healthy or helpful.
Chronic stress leads to all types of health issues as we already know. This can include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic headaches and fatigue, irritability, anxiety and even depression. In addition with the chronic shut down of the digestive and immune systems people are at greater risk for diseases and the development of a range of digestive disorders.
Stress can be very effectively treated through counselling and psychotherapy. Determining and identifying your triggers, your stressors, and then leaning more effective and healthy ways to cope with them will help you to avoid stress from taking over your life in the future. In the holistic approach to stress treatment provided by Philippe Jacquet you will also look at lifestyle changes that can help you to naturally relax and de-stress. This can include eating healthy, regular exercise, massage therapy and the amazing benefits offered through yoga.