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What is Stress?2019-08-13T10:12:52-05:00

What is Stress?

If I were to ask 100 people, ‘ What is stress?’, every answer would be different! I find that both intriguing and mildly frustrating. Why is it, that something that has such a profound effect on our lives is so elusive? We know what stress is, but when we are asked to put our finger on it, its slippery.

That being said, I’d like to give you a VERY watered down version of what stress is, and the response that the body has to stress. Stress is, at its core, a mental, physical and/or emotional response to changes we experiences. These changes may be small, or quite large, but they all may illicit a response. So, physiologically all of our responses are similar. Stress affects the nervous systems and the endocrine system which includes (but is not limited to) your hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenals. The hypothalamus connects your endocrine systems with your nervous system, while the pituitary gland uses information it receives from the brain to tell the other glands what to do. The thyroid makes the hormone that controls your metabolism, and finally your adrenals create the fight or flight hormone ‘adrenaline’. Obviously, there is a great deal more to it, but for our purposes at present, this will suffice.

While what physiologically takes place in the body may be similar from person to person, each person’s bodily response will be different. It comes down to, among other things: a person’s genetics, their health and nutrition, and their environment. Now, stress is a natural bodily response that has kept humans alive for tens of thousands of years, if not longer. What has changed however, is that a person’s stress response is meant to be occasional or episodal, not constant and unremitting. Historically, when the body experiences stress it was immediate, in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. In this case, the blood in the body rushes from the organs to the muscles for optimal performance, agility and speed, the heart rate and blood pressure increases, digestion slows, and blood sugar increases as energy is pulled from all corners of the body to respond to the immediate and imminent stress or danger.

Once the danger has passed, the body can relax, the heart rate decreases, blood pressure decreases, the adrenals relax and our body has time to rest and replenish. Or, at least that is what SHOULD happen. Life today however, seems to be constantly on ‘The Go’. Many of us don’t have the opportunity for our body to relax and replenish. We go from one stressor to another, whether it be a demanding boss or co-worker, dealing with an impossible deadline, rushing from one place to another trying to get children to and from school or practice, or even staying up late at night worrying about health challenges or finances. A stressor can be anything…

If I were to ask 100 people, ‘ What is stress?’, every answer would be different! I find that both intriguing and mildly frustrating. Why is it, that something that has such a profound effect on our lives is so elusive? We know what stress is, but when we are asked to put our finger on it, its slippery.

That being said, I’d like to give you a VERY watered down version of what stress is, and the response that the body has to stress. Stress is, at its core, a mental, physical and/or emotional response to changes we experiences. These changes may be small, or quite large, but they all may illicit a response. So, physiologically all of our responses are similar. Stress affects the nervous systems and the endocrine system which includes (but is not limited to) your hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenals. The hypothalamus connects your endocrine systems with your nervous system, while the pituitary gland uses information it receives from the brain to tell the other glands what to do. The thyroid makes the hormone that controls your metabolism, and finally your adrenals create the fight or flight hormone ‘adrenaline’. Obviously, there is a great deal more to it, but for our purposes at present, this will suffice.

While what physiologically takes place in the body may be similar from person to person, each person’s bodily response will be different. It comes down to, among other things: a person’s genetics, their health and nutrition, and their environment. Now, stress is a natural bodily response that has kept humans alive for tens of thousands of years, if not longer. What has changed however, is that a person’s stress response is meant to be occasional or episodal, not constant and unremitting. Historically, when the body experiences stress it was immediate, in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. In this case, the blood in the body rushes from the organs to the muscles for optimal performance, agility and speed, the heart rate and blood pressure increases, digestion slows, and blood sugar increases as energy is pulled from all corners of the body to respond to the immediate and imminent stress or danger.

Once the danger has passed, the body can relax, the heart rate decreases, blood pressure decreases, the adrenals relax and our body has time to rest and replenish. Or, at least that is what SHOULD happen. Life today however, seems to be constantly on ‘The Go’. Many of us don’t have the opportunity for our body to relax and replenish. We go from one stressor to another, whether it be a demanding boss or co-worker, dealing with an impossible deadline, rushing from one place to another trying to get children to and from school or practice, or even staying up late at night worrying about health challenges or finances. A stressor can be anything…

Ten Simple Ways To Help Manage Stress

Get More Sleep. If your body is rested and you’ve gotten at least 7 hours of sleep, your body will be better prepared to deal with stressors as they present themselves throughout the day. Take breaks throughout the day- While this may be counter-intuitive, taking breaks from working or studying actually makes a person more productive and boosts their performance, and health. I’ve heard these breaks called ’strategic renewals’ which I think is brilliant! Taking a short, five [...]

Stress Management

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