Stress Management

It is likely that we have all suffered from stress at some point in our lives.  Stress can be caused by any number of events, but it is our response to a stressor that is often the issue.

Stress is not a constant – and by that we mean that something that stresses you one day, may be hardly noticed another day. For this reason, it is also not easy to spot and added to that we can even be stressed without knowing it!

Although many people believe stress is emotional, stress is actually a physical response.  It is the response of our brain and hormones telling us to “Freeze, Flee or Fight”. The fight or flight response works by the brain/body releasing a cocktail of potent hormones. Hormones like adrenaline and Cortisol.  Cortisol has a different effect on different cells, but too much cortisol can cause things like high blood pressure, mood swings, weight gain, depression, increased thirst and muscle weakness.

Cortisol is dispersed from our muscles upon physical activity, however, today’s stressors, like emails and traffic jams, lead very little option for physical action. This means that Cortisol can be hanging around for far longer than is good for us.  And in extreme cases, we can be chronically stressed with ongoing Cortisol and Adrenaline rushes – but nowhere for them to go to.

The very first part about managing stress is to be aware of it in the first place. Staring at email after email, or traffic jam after traffic jam, gives us the same reaction, the same laser-like vision, and the same lack of awareness of just how stressed we are.  Stress can even be a positive thing – when we harness the energy it gives us to improve performance.

In summary, stress is good for a few things, including running for a bus or coming first in a race, but it has little place in today’s mainly sedentary work and life.  There are ways to eliminate it and it’s important to do so.  First and foremost, we need to recognise stress.