Stress: How it affects the body, but it can be good for you.
Stress: It’s a natural occurrence and it can be good for you.
Stress, we all know the word; we have heard of the dangers, but do we actually know the ins and outs of ‘STRESS’ on our mental health and our bodies? Stress may be seen as ‘the root of all evil’, but strangely enough, if handled correctly and viewed in the correct mind frame, can be good for us. It’s important to know the difference and to activate healthy stress responses in our lives. We all have stress; we are human, but we sometimes need to learn how to use it or remove it.
In a nutshell: stress is the body’s response to ‘perceived’ harmful situations.
Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stressors can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurological and endocrine systems. Definition from: https://www.medicinenet.com/stress/definition.htm
Stress is caused from pretty much anything and everything, whether it is external, environmental or internal. The difference is that each person determines stress differently, processes it differently and has a different outworking to it. Two people may experience the identical event and have a completely different experience, reaction and outworking; therefore, stress is manifested differently in each of their lives.
What happens in our bodies when our stress response is triggered?
The hypothalamus likened to ‘a tiny control tower’ in your brain, sends out the order: release the stress hormones! These hormones are responsible for your body getting ready for war: your heart starts racing, your breath quickens, and your body is ready to respond. This response was designed to protect you in an emergency, by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could and probably will put your health at serious risk. Everything in our bodies can be affected by chronic stress.
Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn – What happens?
We all react differently to one another during stressful events, but it’s important to note that we can also react differently from one event to another. For example, you experience an accident; you may be hurt but not necessarily in immediate danger: you jump into action-mode, you can think clearly, your response is lightning fast, and you are able to work well under the current pressure. Given another stressful event: for example, you have an intruder in your home, and you are in immediate danger. Here, you lock the door and hide under your bed; you can’t think, and you run away, or you freeze. Same person, different event, and a completely different response.
What happens to us when our stress response is on permanently?
Many people live in constant stress: always on alert and in traumatic conditions. If this is you, it means your stress response is always active, always releasing these stress hormones and always in a ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. Living in chronic stress will cause a variety of harmful symptoms.
- mental health conditions
- body aches
- chronic diseases
- auto-immune diseases
- heart conditions
How can stress work for you? It can actually be good for you.
We often think stress is stress; it’s all the same, right? Yes and no. Stress is not always the enemy. But it is all about perceptions at the end of the day… How we view stress is the real player in the game. In a recent study done at the University of Wisconsin, USA, researchers tracked 30,000 American adults for eight years. They found that the subjects with a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying — but only if they believed stress was harmful. That is the key right there. Those who were negatively affected by stress were the ones who believed they were highly stressed, and that stress was a danger to them. Kelly McGonigal Ted Talk
In another study from Harvard University, USA, participants hearts were monitored in times of induced stress. Most of the participants showed restricted blood vessels, but, incredibly, those who were told stress was a “helpful” reaction to a threat showed relaxed blood vessels. When you’re stressed, your brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that compels you to seek support. It is often known as the love hormone, and is also released when you hug someone. Oxytocin is an anti-inflammatory that allows blood vessels to stay relaxed under stress. When oxytocin molecules react with the heart’s receptors for this hormone, heart cells are compelled to regenerate, and thus recover from any stress-induced damage. “Your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience — and that mechanism is human connection.” In times of stress, researchers believe you should seek social contact and social support to boost your oxytocin levels.
Attitude is everything.
If you have the attitude and perception that this situation can benefit you, and you have a positive outlook on what could be a negative situation, your mental response will increase your cognitive function and clarity of thought. This will help your brain and body to rewire for the good rather than the negative. You will not only be able to face the challenge with more confidence, but you will also overcome it. Your positive mental attitude will result in positive bodily functions and will increase blood flow, therefore allowing a number of neurophysiological and genetic processes to work for you, fuelling intellectual growth and resilience. A genetic switch will be turned on inside your brain, which strengthens your body and, in essence, making you healthier than before.
But, if you see the stress as negative, your stress responses will work against you. The result, worrying about stress will actually put your body into toxic stress, which will impact your mental and physical health. If you are constantly stressed about stress, stress will become an obstacle on your path to success!
When you face a challenge, tell yourself how good stress can be for you! Think of all the positive benefits. You can grow and improve, you will be stronger and healthier, and that good stress can have beneficial results on your body.
Remember, our bodies were designed to have levels of stress. Our stress responses help us in times of danger: they help us to get away from danger.
Stress can be good for you.
How to become an effective ‘stress’ overcomer.
- Talk to someone. Seek the advice of a professional, a counsellor or a coach. Someone who will direct you; give you the correct mental processes; give you the right guidance and help you to change your toxic thoughts and situations into positive ones.
- Help others.
- Eat Healthier.
- Meditate, journal, read, breathe.
- Do what you enjoy.
If you are conscious of what will help you vs harm you, and make choices that will help you, you can let stress be your friend. You will be the ‘WINNER’.
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