As a society, we are consumed by stress. It can overwhelm us and begin to control our lives. Even if we don’t think we are stressed, we often are. Our body has defense mechanisms it uses automatically to help us deal with our stress. This natural human instinct dates back to our ancestors from thousands of years ago. Back then, these responses helped our ancestors as they constantly fought for survival. This is where the term “fight or flight” comes from. When approached by life threatening situations, their bodies knew they had two choices – fight for their life or run for their life. The problem now is that in present day, our body doesn’t know the difference between real and perceived stress. Experiencing stress from a traffic jam or an argument with a co-worker is the exact same thing to the body as a life threatening situation. These instinct responses help us to face and overcome fear.
Some defensive actions include the following:
Our heart rate increases to improve blood flow, our respiratory rate increases to deliver more oxygen to the body, our blood pressure increases to deliver blood more efficiently, our liver releases stored glycogen to deliver more glucose to the body, and our brain secretes a special hormone to stimulate the production of adrenaline.
These automatic, physiological changes prepare us to meet any danger that we face. However, when constantly faced with this perceived danger on a daily basis, this can be detrimental to our body and mind over time. This week, I will start to address different areas of stress and provide techniques which can help deal with it.