STRESS IS MORE PROBLEMATIC THAN YOU THINK
We can all agree that stress does not mean the same thing to everyone. In fact, different people have different names, concepts and ideas on what actual stress is to them. Most people believe that stress is happening when things are severe, overwhelming, and intense. Even still, people believe they are only under stress when lives are at stake, when they are ill, or when things are truly out of hand. People think they need to feel stress, see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, and sense it for it to actually be stress.
Well, guess what?
More often than not, people do not feel stress until it is too late. Research has shown that stress is a silent killer by being the catalyst to most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and more.
So, what exactly is stress?
The most simplistic way to define stress is anything that knocks you off balance, regardless of how small or big, how fast or slow, how often, how intense or weak, how real or unreal. If this thing can knock you even slightly off balance then it is causing you stress.
Things that unbalance you can come from any combination of mental, physical, and social aspects of your life such as joint pain, dealing with deadlines, having a supervisor who is micromanaging you and more. Your ability to return to balance as quickly as possible is crucial to your health, wellbeing, productivity and much more.
Now, keep in mind that there are two different types of stress. Both have the same physiological response in the physical body, but the damage that occurs when activated differs greatly amongst them. These two types of stress are:
What is Acute Stress?
Acute stress is generally short-term, and your body’s response to acute stress is actually very routine. It involves the release of an array of stress response hormones such as cortisol, catecholamine, vasopressin. Those hormones are designed to help your body become ready and prepare to fight to protect itself or run as fast as possible to avoid danger. This is called the fight-or-flight response. Additionally, some people may experience freezing instead of fight-or-flight. This reaction refers to a situation in which you’ve concluded that you can neither defeat the frighteningly dangerous opponent confronting you nor safely run from it.
Picture this - you’re taking a beautiful walk after dinner. You stop at a stop light, waiting to cross the street. In the corner of your eye, you catch a German Shephard growling and racing towards you. You will either hold your ground and try to defend yourself or take off running as fast as humanly possible in the opposite direction. This is your acute stress response. No matter what you choose, your body started responding the instant you noticed the dog.
What happens to your body physiologically is beyond amazing!
When your body is responding to acute stress, it is attempting to utilize all of its reserved energy to survive. Therefore, it will use any bodily system that requires fast and readily available energy. Any system in your body that requires time or has a great energy demand is “cut-off” better yet, down-regulated. For example, the digestive system which takes hours, the reproductive system, bladder function and many more are down-regulated. All the focus or up-regulation is moved toward the muscular system, respiratory, and cardiac output function. Once the threat is over the body will get back to its balanced state.
Think of it this way…
There’s a deadly outbreak spreading across the world. For you to assure survival, you will empty all your savings accounts, retirement accounts, investments and more because you no longer need long-term plans. You need all of your cash so you can buy, trade, bargain, etc. Your body is physiologically doing the same exact thing.
Now, what about chronic stress response?
Chronic stress response is your body’s way of dealing either with repeatedly being knocked out of balance or with a prolonged state of imbalance. The same physiological response that took place during acute stress occurs with chronic stress. The only problem is that with chronic stress the end is not near. This process could go on for days, weeks, months, and, at times, years.
Now, the same down-regulation that occurs during the acute stress response happens during the response to chronic stress. Your liver will not function at full capacity. Your digestive system will not have the proper energy supply. Your kidney will be unable to receive the right nutrients to filter out waste and extra body fluid. This is happening because your body believes there is something it needs to fight or flee from. What do you assume would happen to you if so many systems aren’t working effectively?
You guessed it!
You will start developing a series of health issues which is due to improper function of your internal systems. These problems are not just limited to the individual. They are bleeding into the workplace and effecting organizations as a whole. According to The American Institute of Stress, businesses are losing billions of dollars each year because their employees are stressed and unhealthy.
So, what can YOU do?
Developing a daily practice for your health and wellbeing is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in improving stress! You can use tools like:
Mindfulness techniques (subscribe to our newsletter below)
Sensory Deprivation Tanks
As for businesses, they need to start following in the footsteps of Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and many more that are implementing health programs as the cornerstones of their employee development programs. Those programs are designed to help reduce environmental stimuli or stress, so they can properly implement self-evaluation techniques (R.E.S.S.E.T) and effectively identify the problem or situation. Curious what your stress level says about your wellbeing?