If lately you have been ill, or have had trouble focusing and concentrating, or if you have been experiencing mood swings, feeling withdrawn or even experienced loss of motivation, commitment or confidence, most likely you are experiencing symptoms associated with stress. In order to cope with stress effectively, it is important to understand the stress response in the first place.
To keep us alive, nature hard-wired in our mind-body system a physical and mental response known as the stress response. In ancient times, when our ancestors were faced with a threat to their survival, such as confronting a hungry lion, their biology would trigger the fight or flight (stress) response.
In order to enable the fight or flight response, two hormones were immediately secreted in their bloodstream: cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones enabled our ancestors’ mind-body system to focus on only two courses of action: either ran faster or fight harder.
Such a state of dramatic alert required their bodies to divert energy and resources to functions that would prioritise survival. For example, if a man was digesting a healthy meal and at the same time using his creative skills to make a beautiful sketch, whilst his immune system was fighting viruses to keep him healthy and sharp, in the face of imminent threat, all of these functions would shut down immediately in order to prioritise one single goal: Survival
The body needed to divert blood and energy to his extremities to either fight the lion or get away from it as fast as possible. His mind and body when into a state of utter “focused” panic, increasing his heart rate and blood pressure, tensing his muscles, accelerating his breathing and so on. These drastic measures, which took a serious toll on his physical, mental and emotional wellbeing were completely justifiable since their main purpose was to keep him alive.
In modern times, all of us humans are still hard-wired with this stress response, but most of us trigger this fight or flight response way too many times by how we live our lives. The stress response has gone from being a primal survival function to a state that we trigger unnecessarily, almost on a daily basis, due to dietary habits, lifestyle choices and circumstances or events in our personal and professional lives such as a difficult boss, a discussion with a family or relative, finances, the weather, social commitments, etc.
Eliciting the stress response repeatedly is detrimental to our cognition, emotions, behaviours and ultimately, our physical and mental wellbeing.
The stress response can actually be triggered primarily by the following factors:
2.-Blood sugar dips
3.-Use of stimulants (Coffee, tea, chocolate, drugs etc.)
In my next few posts I will go over these 4 triggers and provide you with tips and advise on how to minimise unnecessary stress in your life.