We all live under continual stress and the effects can be very harmful for our well being but has it always been the case? Can stress actually be good for us?
Stress is a normal reaction to life events such as falling in love or starting a new job. The stress response is hardwired into our body to keep us safe and is part of our natural desire to stay protected.
When we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) triggers the ‘flight or response’ system which puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
The problem starts when our body can no longer distinguish between flight or response or long term work related anxiety.
It’s perfectly natural for us to experience stress in real emergencies but not when we have ongoing stress at work. Over time this creates fatigue and burn out.
The 3 stages of the stress response
1. The alarm stage
If we were to be confronted by a bear or tiger our body would go into panic mode and activate the sympathetic nervous system to protect us. Our brain triggers the adrenal glands to produce glucocorticoid hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Our body is alerted to the raise of hormones and is ready with emergency fuel and energy to respond to the present danger.
As stress levels rise, our pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats, respiration sweating and pupil dilation all increase.
2. The adaptive resistance stage
In a fight or flight situation our body would return to normal after the stressful event however if your stress reactions are triggered too often the body stays on high alert. The result is that our body builds up a resistance and tolerance to coexist with continuous stress. The continual release of stress hormones has a damaging effect on our body and damages immunity defences making us susceptible to illness.
3. Adrenal fatigue
Our body is not made to be continually wired for emergency and it starts to shut down. The burnout stage creates adrenal fatigue, after all it is not normal to be continually chased by a bear.
4. Break the stress cycle
The sympathetic nervous system switches on the fight or flight response but we can switch this off with the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us to conserve energy and rest. It allows us to rest and digest. Our fast paced life makes it difficult to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system but there are ways that we can trigger it.
How to reduce stress
- Practise calming techniques such as meditation, yoga and other forms of exercise.
- Declutter your work space.
- Plan your daily work load
- Deal with one task at a time, the modern concept of multi tasking is definitely bad for stress levels.
- Delegate tasks where appropriate.
- Limit time on social media to 2 x 15 minutes per day.
- Take an omega 3 supplement to reduce inflammation in the brain. Aliol is a vegan omega 3 supplement, suitable for all diets. Reducing inflammation helps to reduce stress.